Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


DeSales High School to Close

July 31st, 2012, Promulgated by Abaccio

While it has not yet been publicly announced (Update: It has been announced now. Cleansing Fire was the first to break this story publicly), those within the DeSales community have learned that, despite the Board of Trustees announcing last month that they voted to keep the school open for the 2012-2013 school year, DeSales will be closing.  A letter is in the process of being sent out to announce this decision. (Attached below)

EDIT: New information suggests that the DeSales Board of Trustees voted in an emergency meeting to reverse their earlier decision, and it may be the Board of Trustees who, after publicly announcing that DeSales would remain open for the upcoming school year, reneged on that statement.  

Behold the fruits of 33 years of leadership from Bishop Matthew Clark:

4 out of 9 High Schools have closed.

50 out of 72 Primary Schools have closed

At least 40 churches have been closed.

Mass attendance has fallen nearly 40 percent since 2001.

An indelible mark, indeed.  Well done, good and faithful servant.

UPDATE: News outlets have picked up this story here, here, here, here and here.

Interview with Peter Cheney, Chairman of the Board of Trustees here

Email sent out to parents below:

Dear Parents/Guardians, Teachers, Staff and Alumni,

It is our sad duty to inform you that, after 100 years, DeSales High School is closing. This decision was made by the DeSales Board of Trustees after a thorough review of current enrollment projections and financial data, and after much prayer and heartfelt consideration.

While the decision to end the school’s long tenure is difficult for a

ll who love DeSales, we felt it was the only responsible course given the many admirable efforts to raise needed funds and boost enrollment, both of which fell short of the minimum needs to sustain the school now and in the future.

Words are not sufficient to express our gratitude to you, the DeSales Family. Our students and their parents showed patience and courage. Our staff showed incredible loyalty. Our alumni provided financial support and helped spread the word of our plight. This speaks much of the lasting legacy that is DeSales.

May God grant us peace and understanding in the weeks ahead and offer solace and comfort to those most affected by this decision. Over the course of these many decades of excellence, DeSales has given many generations lasting memories and changed our lives forever. 

May those memories and all that we learned at DeSales sustain us.


Peter Cheney
DeSales Board of Trustees


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34 Responses to “DeSales High School to Close”

  1. avatar Diane Harris says:

    This is a list of the Trustees, and I find it very hard to believe that Fr. Joseph Hart voted to keep DeSales open (unanimous vote? really?)

    DeSales High School Board of Trustees (from the school’s website)

    Mr. Fran Barrett
    Mr. Sam Casella, President
    Mr. Keith Cassell
    Rev. Joseph Hart
    Mr. Bill Hastings
    Ms. Joan Leonard
    Mrs. Anne Wilkins-Leach
    Mrs. Elaine Morrow
    Mr. Michael Roulan
    Mr. John Tickner
    Rev. Paul Tomasso
    Mr. John Zappia

    After seeing up-close how badly and unfairly the process was managed by Fr. Hart regarding St. Mary Rushville, I am of the opinion that the Diocesan decision is just a continuation of the destructive pattern of the past, with perhaps an acceleration toward a scorched earth strategy for the new bishop. May God please send us a new bishop quickly, a man with his priorities in the right place: souls, not $oul$.

    Abaccio, what do you mean by the “Diocese of Rochester’s Corporate Board” and would you please post a list of its members? How much cash does DeSales have, and what happens to it if/when the school is closed? The NYS attorney general is taking a serious look into the failure of fiduciaries in not-for-profit corporations, including (I am led to believe) fundraising on false pretenses. Maybe someone could interest him in this fiasco? It’s worth writing a bunch of letters to see.

  2. avatar Abaccio says:

    The information was in the FL Times in late June. Perhaps they have more info.

  3. avatar Abaccio says:

    The Corporate Board, made up of the Bishop, the Parochial Vicar, The Chancellor, CFO, Superintendent of Schools (Anne Wilkens Leach) Priest of St. Francis/St. Stephens (Father Tomasso) and Chairman of the Board of DeSales(Peter Cheney), oversees the Board of Trustees.

  4. avatar Scott W. says:

    Meanwhile, good news for the West coast: The Holy Father has appointed Prop. 8 advocate Bishop Salvatore Cordileone to replace Archbishop George Niederauer in San Francisco:

    Wow. Into the lion’s den.

  5. avatar dor_fallout says:

    Is there legal recourse. How much more damage can our bishop do. Why cant our diocese support our schools. One for the road Bishop Clark?

  6. avatar desalesfbcoach says:

    this is a disaster. We were at a football camp with Desales players and coaches when the story broke via Facebook. players, parents, and coaches are devastated at the news. the school is financially better than ever and we had a plan to increase and maintain a steady increase in enrollment. Thank you Bishop clark for another shining reason why i have lost all trust and respect for the Rochester Diocese. I invite you to the school today at 3 as i meet with my team and parents to do damage control. many of these fine student athletes are getting recruited for colleges and now where do they go, less than 2 weeks before the high school season starts. UNBELIEVABLE

  7. avatar dor_fallout says:

    I was told that a plan was in place also and at one point also told that DOR had no part in the decision making for Desale’s since they do not support Desale’s finacially. My son went to Desale’s and planned on sending my other children too. I will no longer support DOR in my weekly offering until Bishop Clark is long gone and all his damage is undone.

  8. avatar CPT Tom says:

    Stuff like this is why I haven’t given to my parish for years. Once I found out the diocese basically takes what it doesn’t get through the CMA and the shenanigans of the Bishop and my parish, I gave up giving them anything. May Rome send us a Good Shepherd and soon. Six to Twelve months more of this kind of garbage and there may not be a diocese left for the new bishop to lead.

    Progressivism and modernism have destroyed the diocese and turned the “flock” into apathetic sheep. Luckily there are those in the shadow who are awake and waiting for new leadership. We need to pray and prepare. The light is coming. Hopefully not too late.

  9. avatar desalesfbcoach says:

    i have invited the bishop to my meeting this afternoon with a group of devastated students and parents. He does not even respond to email or a faxed letter at 615am. He is spineless, heartless and has left an area in complete and utter disaster.

  10. avatar Mike says:

    Bishop Clark has yet to attend the closing of a parish or a school, so I wouldn’t expect to see him at DeSales.

    As someone (Dr. K?) noted two of three years ago, he is a fair-weather bishop, glad-handing his flock during the good times and all tied up with “previous commitments” during the bad.

  11. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    To all the parishes, schools, educational/charity programs of the DOR: Having too much money opens the potential for being robbed. They will get it by hook or by crook!!!

    Crook:an instrument or implement having a bent or curved part, as a shepherd’s staff hooked at one end or the crosier of a bishop or abbot.

  12. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    It’s facebook’s fault! No, really. You just can’t make this stuff up:

    “Families started jumping ship. We lost at least 10 families because of Facebook. If we did not have social media, DeSales would probably be open today,” Cheney remarked.

  13. avatar Richard Thomas says:


    Perhaps you can tolerate a year of closing. Then, hopefully, God willing, you can approach the new bishop wityh a sound plan and reopen the school. Let’s pray that faith triumphs deceit.

  14. avatar Ink says:

    Ben: They could’ve done something like “well we need a certain number of families to absolutely guarantee that they’ll go here next year in order to ensure it won’t close” which is pretty much a recipe for scaring off any family who doesn’t want their school to close on them. I’ve seen it happen before.

  15. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    There was an enrollment problem. As of July, enrollmant was 85 students. It was 115 last year. How much is tuition? $5000? If so that’s a loss of $150,000. With the school year beginning in a month, that’s putting everyone under a tremendous strain.

  16. avatar annonymouse says:

    It seems to me that Bishop Clark is a convenient scapegoat for all evils in the DoR, but will somebody please tell me how this one is on him? He cannot force the parents of Ontario County to send their kids to Desales. He cannot and does not fund Aquinas, McQuaid, Mercy and Kearney.

    How does this one get pinned on the bishop?

  17. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    “How does this one get pinned on the bishop?”

    Some people on this blog seem to think that we expect the bishop to do the impossible. We leave that to God. All we want him to do is the possible. If he gives 100% possible effort and it fails, then blame the “Person” responsible for the impossible.

  18. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    Yesterday I had a tummy ache. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure it was the bishop’s fault.

  19. avatar Abaccio says:

    You’re looking at this through a magnifying glass. Step back, Raymond and Annonymouse. Look at the timeline of events.

    1) 54 Catholic Schools have closed during +Clark’s tenure. FIFTY-FOUR! This is unsurprising, since he sees no need for Catholic Schools. So, viewed in a broader context, we can include His Excellency among those at fault

    2) Among those closed schools: St Mary, Waterloo. St Francis, Geneva. St Patrick, Seneca Falls. St Michael, Newark. All of which were feeder schools for DeSales. If parents do not send their children to Catholic primary school, why would they suddenly send them to Catholic High School? Including Geneva, Seneca Falls, Waterloo, and Newark, there were 1389 Catholic primary school students in 1979. Due to school closures and poor marketing/catechesis, that number is now below 130, a dropoff of over 90 percent. How can DeSales be expected to draw 115+ students when its feeder schools have almost all been closed? The only reason places like BK are still open is that they started with a much higher number of students. BK has lost well over 1000 students since 1979. This downward spiral is most assuredly caused by the leadership and policies of Bishop Clark.

    3) Mass attendance has plummeted dramatically throughout the Diocese, including the Finger Lakes area. In the late 1990s, the Geneva parishes had, I believe, 9 weekend Masses. That number has now fallen to 6 total (including 1 Spanish & 1 at the local colleges.) In the same vein, budgeted collections have fallen by about 33% over that time period. In addition, inflation over the period has been about 33% (which should show you just how poor the situation really is)…All of these things are linked.

  20. avatar desalesfbcoach says:

    here is the last thing i will say. Less than 12 hrs after the announcement was made on Facebook, i assembled the football team to meet me at the school so we could figure out where they were going and to let them process/grieve. there was anger, tears, sadness and the kicker was someone was there changing the locks and a woman came out and said the dioces has taken over the building and if we did not leave that the police would be called.

  21. avatar dor_fallout says:

    I really thought enrollment numbers were like 95. Most though the enrollment numbers would of been there, if were not for the rumors that DOR would close the school anyways. DOR knows all about self fulfilling prophecy. This is how Seneca Falls and Waterloo closed. I believe these tactics is just another tool used by DOR to achieve their agenda of closing schools and selling off assets. Does this mean that there is no Catholic high school presence from Rochester to Syracuse? How many thousands of square miles is this.

    If there was a plan in place to grow the school…which there was….a sound one too. If they had the right people in place to grow the enrollment numbers as well as other endowments, contributions etc. etc. which they did … then DOR should of came out and supported Desale’s financially if they had to, in order to maintain a Catholic presence less than this 6000 mile radius that they have created from Desales closing. I could go on and on. I am not ignorant either. I have been involved in planning committees and understand the games that DOR plays. I am still back to praying that the new bishop will realize the importance of Catholic schools like our pope does.

  22. avatar Interstate Catholic says:

    Throwing children out of their school one month before school opens. Classy.
    Talk about corporate sin.

  23. avatar Hopefull says:

    The smoke of satan is indeed in the Church, as Pope Paul VI said.

    After all those laudatory (and irrational) praises from the Democrat and Chronicle, let’s make sure this story gets told too. This is way beyond the usual diocesan incompetance; it points to a deep hatred that is out of control, in my opinion.

  24. avatar Bruce says:

    The buck stops with the bishop in any diocese. His kingdom for thirty years. If it has collapsed, there is no one else to blame.

  25. avatar Scott W. says:

    Ecce fructus

  26. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    Ben: “Yesterday I had a tummy ache. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure it was the bishop’s fault.”

    Were you staring at his picture at the time or reading in the D and C about him ???

  27. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    The downward spiraling of the diocese did not begin with Bishop Clark. If you recall from diocesan history, Bishop Kearney, a former teacher, was known as the “school builder”. I thought he was the best communicator this diocese ever had, with the exception of McQuaid. He was followed by Bishop Sheen who was about as glad to be here as the lamb was to be sleeping with the lion. The lasting impression I had of him, garnered during his press conference at the cathedral rectory, was that he was very angry.
    Sheen’s most startling decision was to give St Bridget’s Church to the federal government for a housing development. He did not have a clue about collegiality and reversed his decision when the people of the parish, predominently hispanic, surrounded his apartment downtown with their cars and threw Downtown Rochester into gridlock. In those days the laity, yet to be empowered by Vatican II, knew how to get things done. He gave them back their parish. Sheen accomplished very little in Rochester, except for his housing program, and got out as soon as he could.
    Bishop Hogan followed and I thought he was Bishop Sheen’s revenge on the diocese. He accomplished little or nothing, except to hold together the clerical “Old Boys Club”.
    When Bishop Clark came on the scene, the diocese had been in an unproductive holding pattern for a few years. It had to grow or decay. Well it seems that the decay seemed to set in. Focus was placed on money and buildings and very little on spirituality. Programs with a spiritual intent became almost non-existent and clerical candidates as well as priests with a healthy respect for church teachings and spiritual development went elsewhere.

    I hope that the new bishop will be a builder of spirituality and will set this diocese on fire with enthusiasm for the spiritual life. If he does this, our institutions will revive and thrive and Christian love will begin to inundate the diocese.
    If I have offended anyone with this posting, “GET OVER IT”.

  28. avatar Bruce says:

    Hey Ray, you guys need a little less “spiritual life” and more “Catholicism”

    The disaster that is the DOR is Bishop Clark’s fault and his fault alone. Blaming other bishops from over 30 years ago is just plain silly. 30 years, Ray. 30 years is plenty of time to fix past mistakes.

    The bishop has failed in his duty. Pray for his soul.

  29. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    Bruce to Ray “Hey Ray, you guys need a little less “spiritual life” and more “Catholicism”:”The bishop has failed in his duty. Pray for his soul.”

    Can’t pray right now; I’m concentrating on expanding my Catholicism!!!

    Bruce to Ray: Blaming other bishops from over 30 years ago is just plain silly. 30 years, Ray. 30 years is plenty of time to fix past mistakes.

    Clark did not see them as mistakes; seldom does the “old boys club” see failures by their peers. Clark found plenty of apathy when he came here and now it is worse. If you don’t know what I mean, read my comments above and my description of what the hispanics did with Sheen. DeSales will close and people will wring their hands and lament the situation and slide back into traditional Catholic apathy and pray that God will kick someone’s butt when they can do it themselves.

    30 years is plenty of time to fix past mistakes. Read about the efforts of Pope St Pius X and his attempt to stamp out modernism. According to your estimates, modernism should have totally disappeared by 1948!!

  30. avatar Diane Harris says:

    The front page of today’s sports section in the Canandaigua Messenger lists the impact of the De Sales closure on the entire football schedule for the Finger Lakes League. What happens to the schedules now (starting in just a few weeks) for the seven teams that had been scheduled to play deSales? It is once again an illustration of the total disregard not only for the Catholics in the situation but for the public as well. Shame on those with so little concern for the community. It is hard not to see a meaness of spirit, of deliberateness in the way this was carried out.

    On the positive side, if one can call it that, the behavior of the diocese seems to me to let off the hook anyone who has any outstanding pledges to any diocesan program or facility, if this is how the diocese so little respects its own obligations. Of course, I thought that same thing after parents had anted-up for a new gym only to have their school closed!

    As an outside observer to this situation, however, I must say that if the parents of students don’t take advantage of their TEN (10) DAY WINDOW to send a letter to the bishop appealing his decision and asking him to reconsider it, they can only blame themselves for letting their final opportunity for survival evaporate like the morning mist (or is it mourning not missed?)

  31. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    Diane: “Of course, I thought that same thing after parents had anted-up for a new gym only to have their school closed!”

    Recall Holy Trinity Church in Webster where the parish built a a new gym and parish center connected to the school. The school was closed a short time later. The parish center, Murphy Hall, is still being used along with the gym but could be sold with the school as a very nice little real estate package as was Annunciation. Do you think the diocesan bankers (money changers) are gentrifying these properties in order to sell them to a future high bidder?? Did Annunciation keep the money from the sale of its church building or did it go to the “1150”* account. I understand when they asked the “loan officers” at “1150” if they could have some of the money back to underwright the building of a handicapped access ramp, they were told to take up a collection for it.

    If the deceased former pastor of Annunciation, Domestic Prelate Monsignor Simmonetti , knew about this, he would turn over in his celestial bed/grave.

    * 1150 Buffalo Road

  32. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Richard Thomas,
    Of course the bishop is not going to change his mind. I understand that. He never seems to change his mind on anything. BUT the letter of appeal has to be sent to him within 10 days of the announcement in order for those with a vested interest (parents, donors, employees) to keep a canonical process open. Once the time passes it is too late. It could be particulary advantageous to have this matter still “canonically” open when a new bishop arrives. It would move the matter to the top of his list because of Rome’s potential involvement. And, after the time periods for the bishop saying “no” or just ignoring the request expire, the request could well be in Rome and gain some precedence in the new bishop’s attention from that point of view. Furthermore, if it went that far it could also help to accelerate the naming of our new bishop.

    Here’s the point which I think you missed and the interested parties may also be missing: such a letter is NOT to expected to change Bishop Clark’s mind or make him do the right thing, it is to exercise the canonical rights of the laity. It is not based on the odds of winning either, but on doing the right thing for Catholic education and the children. Simply said, if those who have been injured don’t ‘put up’ the proper canonical resistance, they should just ‘shut up’ after the 10 day time period passes (this week). Whining won’t win anything.

  33. avatar militia says:

    Follow the money. As of June 28, DeSales had $110,000 of the $200,000 needed to keep the school open. A month later, it is reasonable to think some more had been collected. So where did this more than $110,000 go to, and when will it be returned to those who gave for the clear purpose of keeping DeSales open? What a tempting plum! See article at

  34. avatar militia says:

    I posted this twice earlier and it went to spam I guess. This time I’ll try to post without the URL link to the Courier article.

    Submitted on 2012/08/06 at 7:28 PM
    Follow the money. As of June 28th, it sounds like $110,000 had been collected to keep DeSales open another year. They were $90,000 short. A month later one would think they’d collected more. So, the question is where did the more than $110,000 go to? and when is it going to be returned to the donors who gave for a clear purpose which won’t be accomplished? Was this just a too-desirable plum? See today’s electronic Courier article on the closing of DeSales (I can’t show it as this will go to spam.)

    [Original post cleared from spam folder]

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