Merged borough Catholic school to combine names

St. Francis Assisi School will be the site of the new St. Francis-St. Hedwig School. FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — A new, merged Catholic school in Naugatuck will not be called St. Theresa after all.

On Monday, the Archdiocese of Hartford officially announced the name for the combined St. Francis and St. Hedwig schools will be St. Francis-St. Hedwig School. Parishioners from St. Francis of Assisi, St. Hedwig and St. Mary parishes were told about the decision during weekend masses.

“I think the right decision was made in the long run,” St. Francis School alum Dave Rogers said. “I’m glad that logic prevailed.”

In March, the Archdiocese revealed its plan to merge the two schools, which are the only Catholic schools in Naugatuck, as of July 1 in order to keep the schools financially viable.

Both schools have been plagued by deficits and dropping enrollment over recent years—St. Francis alone has dropped from 235 students in 2000 to 154 students this year. The new school will be housed at the St. Francis School site.

At the time the merger was made public, the Archdiocese announced the merged school would be named St. Theresa to symbolize a fresh beginning for the schools. The proposed name change to St. Theresa was immediately met with concerns from some alumni and parents, who argued that changing the name would lead to a loss of the schools’ tradition, history and sense of connection to the community, and would be disrespectful to donors.

It was also contended that if the words “St. Francis” were taken out of the school’s name, that the St. Francis School Foundation’s assets would be frozen for five years due to the way its bylaws are written.

A group opposed to the name change wrote letters and e-mails to the Archdiocese requesting the St. Theresa name be dropped.

After weeks of back and forth, the Archdiocese has done just that in an effort to “avoid further distractions.”

“It is time to put this issue behind us and focus on providing an exemplary Catholic school education for the students of Naugatuck. They deserve our undivided attention and support,” said Archbishop Henry J. Mansell, in a prepared release.

St. Francis alum Dorothy Hoff said the decision to combine the names of the two schools is common sense. Hoff also credited the Archdiocese for listening to the people.

“One thing I don’t want to get lost in this is it seemed like the church listened,” Hoff said.