McAuley high school to cut ties to Catholic Church: ‘[We] must evolve with the times’

Catherine McAuley High School in Portland, which was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1969 as an all-girl Catholic secondary education institution, announced plans to sever ties with its religious sponsors starting next fiscal year, July 1, 2016.

At that point, McAuley will continue on as an independent, non-sectarian school.

“To best realize their vision and mission, institutions must evolve with the times,” said McAuley board chairwoman Heidi Osborn and Sister Jacqueline Marie Kieslich, president of the Northeast Community of the Sisters of Mercy, in a joint statement. “Together, McAuley and the Sisters of Mercy have concluded that the school can best continue to serve its students by ending our historical affiliation.”

Head of School Karen Woodson Barr said Wednesday the school would continue to encourage “students of all faiths … to have a spiritual life,” and would maintain its “foundation of ethical and moral values.”

The move is an earth-shaking one for both the school and the Catholic education landscape in Maine.

McAuley has long been recognized as a top Maine school inside the classroom and out, recently ranked as the state’s No. 1 private school by Down East magazine readers, and regularly challenging for state titles in sports and other extra curricular competitions.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland Bishop Robert Deeley released a lengthy statement expressing sadness with the decision. He said:

“Though reached in mutual agreement between the Sisters of Mercy and school officials, I am saddened to learn of the change in the sponsorship status of Catherine McAuley High School in Portland. We regret the loss of a Catholic school in our diocese. Since founding the school in 1969, the Sisters of Mercy have welcomed thousands of girls into their classrooms, providing each student with an outstanding education and an understanding of how best to serve God and one another. As the Sisters of Mercy celebrate their 150th anniversary of service in Maine, we owe them our sincere gratitude for their many contributions, especially to education and health care.

For parents who want their high school children to continue with a Catholic education, the diocese offers Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn and the Jesuit Fathers offer Cheverus High School in Portland; both schools have long histories of promoting academic excellence and service in the context of a faith-based education, and would welcome your families warmly into their school communities. The academic, spiritual, and social benefits of a Catholic education are well-documented. Students learn the ways of Christ, discovering how to joyfully live their lives with faith in the world.”

Below is the full letter announcing the change:

McCauley Letter

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.