Pastor to listen to school concerns Nuns consider leaving St. Mary's over restructuring


The pastor at St. Mary's Church in Annapolis, backing away slightly from his controversial school-restructuring plan, said yesterday that he will talk with parishioners and consider their concerns before making any changes.

"In the very short term, it is my intent to review all of the information with which I have been presented," the Rev. Thomas Siconolfi said in a statement. "Later this week, I will provide parishioners and the public with more detail on plans for the future at St. Mary's."

Siconolfi did not answer messages left at the rectory.

Opponents of the reorganization, which would combine the high school and elementary school, now operated separately, under a new seven-member board of trustees and a director, asked the archdiocese to intervene. Yesterday, Bishop William C. Newman, the eastern vicar for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, and Ronald J. Valenti, the archdiocese superintendent of schools, met with Siconolfi at the rectory to discuss St. Mary's future.

"The bishop was able to share some of their thoughts based on their experience with schools," said Raymond P. Kempisty, spokesman for the archdiocese.

Kempisty said in a written statement that the archdiocese "affirms the authority and responsibility of Father Siconolfi to make decisions as Pastor and spiritual leader to the families of St. Mary's Parish and Schools."

The reorganization the pastor has proposed leaves unclear the role of Jim Moorhead, a popular lacrosse coach and president of the high school. Moorhead said he will not comment until he knows the details of the reorganization plan.

Siconolfi's proposal would bring the St. Mary's schools into alignment with other Catholic educational institutions. A combined Catholic elementary and secondary school is rare, said Barbara Keebler, spokeswoman for the National Catholic Educational Association. About 200 of the 8,200 Catholic schools in the country include kindergarten through 12th grade. Our Lady of Pompeii in Baltimore is the only other kindergarten-through-12th-grade Catholic school in Maryland, she said.

"And it is not unusual for there to be one school board and one administrator," she said.

Parents and some administrators have said the new structure would add bureaucracy that would separate administrators from Siconolfi. The School Sisters of Notre Dame, who have taught at St. Mary's for 131 years, said they are considering leaving the school because of the changes.

"When you have a good thing going, it's hard to understand why [Siconolfi] would change things," Sister Francita Hobbs said yesterday. She said she had not spoken with the pastor since Friday and did not know that he had met with Newman.

Nancy Duden, president of the 12-member high school board, said she plans to hold a meeting with parents tomorrow Wednesday night to discuss what can be done.

"I hope Father Siconolfi will listen to the concerns of the parents Wednesday night," Duden said. "Father Siconolfi has not appeared at any of out board meetings since September."

Pub Date: 5/12/98

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