The White Plains Examiner

Hundreds Come Out to Find Alternatives to Good Counsel Campus Sale

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The Chapel of the Divine Compassion on the Good Counsel campus is one of White Plains' historic assets.
The Chapel of the Divine Compassion on the Good Counsel campus is one of White Plains’ historic assets.

On Thursday evening a distressed, emotional and concerned gathering of several hundred, parents, students, teachers, associates and members of the general Westchester community gathered in the Chapel of the Divine Compassion on the grounds of the Good Counsel Academy (GCA) High School campus in White Plains.

The call that brought them together was a town-hall-style meeting held by the Board of trustees of Good Counsel Academy High School as they sought to demand answers from a silent team of leaders that has put the entire campus property up for sale, causing the high school to seek another location and displacing several sisters living on the property.

At the opening of the meeting the Board announced they want at least a one-year extension to explore possibilities. They say they have been given until July 1, 2015 to vacate the school buildings.

A hasty search by the school board has turned up one possible move for the academy to an abandoned school in New Rochelle run by the Catholic Archdiocese. However, the building requires massive repair work and rent to be paid. The funds needed to be raised for the repairs would end up in the millions of dollars.

Tuition paying parents expressed anger and sadness at the meeting, saying they want to know what the sale price might be and who the potential buyers are for the property at 52 North Broadway, White Plains. They also wanted to know why they had not been given more time to “save their school.” Raising funds for what seems to be a location they are not quite settled on when they could try to purchase the property on which they are already located did not seem to make sense.

The property was put on the market at the end of May 2014.

Several parents noted that a move to New Rochelle away from the easy commute to White Plains would cause them to remove their children from the school. Other parents expressed concern that their daughters should be focused on looking for colleges and not stressed by wondering where they would be attending high school next year.

There was general feeling of anger toward a team of five leaders of the religious order who have apparently remained silent, not answering questions, even to their boards, nor did they attend the Thursday meeting. In particular, the president of the congregation, Carol Wagner, RDC, was singled out and asked publicly to come forward with information.

Facing financial difficulties similar to those experienced by other religious orders in a day when the traditional roles of religious leaders are being challenged worldwide, the Sisters of the Divine Compassion are in the midst of an apparent schism evidenced by the fact that many of the sisters within the community seem to be in complete disagreement with the decision by their leadership team to sell off the parcel.

Bound by vows of obedience and having lived silently in service for most of their lives, fighting back is not an easy action for the many sisters who are now making it known that they would like to see another solution to their financial problems than the selling off of their mother house and a chapel that has been listed as both a national and state historic site that should be preserved.

Not lost on the people living in the immediate White Pains community is the fact that yet another largely green space and historic site within the city is being threatened by the potential sale and development of the property.

A social media campaign to communicate with the many GCA supporters and alumnae has been combined with a letter writing campaign to try to get the sale of the property put off while alternative solutions are explored.

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