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Immaculata Academy to close at end of school year

This year for Immaculata Academy will be the last.

That was the message delivered to families and students Friday, in a letter from the Catholic religious order that has been behind the Town of Hamburg high school for 88 years.

June will mark the end of classes at the campus on South Park Avenue, a leader of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph wrote in the letter.

Sister Ann Marie Hudzina, the general minister of the community, stated in the letter that the decision was made for practical reasons by the order – and, she assured families, with sadness.

“I deeply regret having to share this sad news with you,” Hudzina wrote. “Please know that each Franciscan Sister of St. Joseph shares your sorrow over this decision.”

The high school’s website bore a message on Friday evening, and the academy itself – which numbers about 180 students, according to a school spokeswoman – was quiet and largely darkened.

Bishop Richard J. Malone, leader of the Catholic diocese in Western New York, noted the closing in a statement released late Friday.

“For the past nine decades, the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph have been dedicated to educating generations of young women at Immaculata Academy, helping them reach their spiritual, intellectual and physical potential. We are saddened over the Sisters’ decision to end their sponsorship of Immaculata Academy and the decision of the Board of Trustees to close the school,” the bishop said.

The bishop also urged families affected by the school’s closuing to seek out other options for Catholic education:

“I encourage Immaculata families to continue their daughters’ Catholic education at another Catholic high school. I am also asking our school communities to work closely with these young women to make it a smooth transition as they move to a new education setting.”

The decision to step away from the high school was made by the religious order, the letter from Hudzina to families stated. Meetings with members of the school – board members, school officials and more – were held, the letter added.

The religious community told those involved “that the congregation will begin the process to formally end its sponsorship of Immaculata Academy,” the letter stated.

The Hudzina letter added that there was some talk of “how the Academy might move forward.”

However, the letter stated: “Based on critical analysis of the pertinent data gathered over these years, it is with deep sadness that I wish to inform you that the decision has been made to close Immaculata Academy in June of 2016.”

The letter touched on matters both human and money-related.

Among them, the size of the teaching community that has been the academy’s center and support for decades was stressed.

According to Hudzina, the community, which used to number upward of 500 religious women, has decreased to fewer than 60. And sisters are older now, she added.

“Sister Jean, our school president and assistant principal, is the only member of the FSSJ ministering at the Academy,” Hudzina wrote.

Hudzina also pointed to the $7.5 million and more that the order has directed toward the school over the past 13 years in a variety of ways.