Bishop Gainer

Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg is seen in this file photo from Aug. 1, 2018.

Citing financial distress, the Diocese of Harrisburg announced Tuesday that it will close two schools — Lebanon Catholic and Holy Family Consolidated Catholic School in Berwick at the end of the current school year.

The diocese stated that both schools have been facing enrollment and financial challenges for years and their continued operation is no longer sustainable by the area parishes.

The pastors at these parishes officially requested the closure of the schools, citing the continued financial stresses upon the parishes, especially in light of the current health crisis. Bishop Ronald Gainer has accepted the pastors’ recommendations and has granted permission for the closures.

“Making the choice to close a Catholic school is one of the most difficult decisions for a bishop," he said. "Although many members of the Berwick and Lebanon communities worked heroically to reverse the financial situations of the schools, the downward trend has continued for years and has reached a point that is no longer sustainable by the parishes without impacting many other ministry programs.

“While this is a very difficult time, I wish to thank the principals, faculties, staff, parents and students for their dedication.”

With the closure of Lebanon Catholic, the Lancaster-Lebanon League will now lose one school in athletics, leaving local athletic directors to tweak schedules for the upcoming cycle. Lebanon Catholic dropped its football program after the 2000 season; the Beavers fielded a football team in various leagues before joining the L-L League in 1975.

Lebanon Catholic's girls basketball team has garnered plenty of attention over the years. Under longtime coach Patti Hower, the Beavers won three PIAA titles and 20 District Three championships — most in district history. That team finished 12-14 last season.

Additionally, the school also fielded L-L teams in boys basketball (6-15 last season), bowling (2-82 last season), boys soccer (2-13 last season), girls soccer (5-12 last season), golf (1-29 last season) and softball, which did not play a spring season this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bishop Gainer said that he regretted delivering the news of the closures to parents through a video message, but the current situation of social distancing made an in-person meeting impossible.

Both schools have operated in deficit situations for several years.

As preparations are made to close the schools, the Diocese will support staff members and will work with families who wish to continue their Catholic education at neighboring Catholic schools.

Holy Family, a K through fifth grade school, currently has 62 students and 16 staff. Lebanon Catholic, a K through 12 school, currently has just over 300 students and more than 40 staff members.