After much prayer, Our Lady of Miracles avoids closure

Chandra Brace, Gustine resident and administrator, will be new principal
The Our Lady of Miracles statue located at the front of the Our Lady of Miracles Catholic School in Gustine. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno has confirmed that the school will not reopen for the upcoming school year and will close its doors Aug. 1. (credit: Andrew Kuhn/Merced Sun-Star)

The Our Lady of Miracles statue located at the front of the Our Lady of Miracles Catholic School in Gustine. (credit: Andrew Kuhn/Merced Sun-Star)

The following comes from a July 29 Merced Sun-Star article by Brianna Vaccari:

Our Lady of Miracles Catholic School in Gustine will stay open, church officials confirmed.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno and Office of Catholic Education announced the decision to leave the school open late Tuesday, reversing actions taken a week ago to shutter the decades old religious school.

Nearly a week ago, the Bishop Rev. Armando X. Ochoa of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno said Our Lady of Miracles would not reopen for the 2015-16 school year because of low enrollment and lack of leadership. The decision came as a surprise to parents and community leaders, who voiced hope for the school to find a way to stay open.

Krista Duarte, an alumna and parent of Our Lady of Miracle students, said she was happy to see the school stay open.

“I think it’s going to be nothing but positive for everybody, the community and the school,” Duarte said Wednesday.

Ochoa, along with Mona Faulkner, the superintendent of Catholic schools, appointed Chandra Brace as the school’s new principal and Melissa Meneses as the director of enrollment, marketing and communications.

Brace, a member of Our Lady of Miracles Parish, has four children who attend the school and has been the summer school principal at Gustine High School, according to the Office of Catholic Education. Brace has a California administrative credential.

Meneses has been the principal at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School in Dalhart, Texas. Meneses will focus on “enrollment challenges,” developing a campaign aimed at increasing the student population, the Office of Catholic Education said.

“With the appointment of these two key school administrators, Our Lady of Miracles School is now situated to begin addressing the challenges that prompted the decision to close the school,” the Office of Catholic Education said in a statement. “It is the sincere interest and desire of Bishop Ochoa that Our Lady of Miracles School remain open and continues to provide a Catholic education for the children of Gustine and the surrounding areas.”

Duarte said parents were notified in an email about the new hires Tuesday afternoon.

Since parents were told a week ago the school would close, about 100 people gathered on campus each night for a prayer vigil, Duarte said. When the community found out the school would stay open after all, the vigils turned into a rally where registration packets and fliers for fundraisers were passed out.

“The school closing really did bring out the community in way I didn’t think would happen,” she said.



  1. A total disgrace how this entire matter was handled by the Bishop and his staff. No prior notice of possible school closure. Then once the parents began to protest, a couple of qualified administrators appear out of thin air. One more sign of what is wrong with so many of our Bishops and Archbishops here in the US.

  2. Tom Byrne says:

    This long-time Catholic school teacher finds the whole thing bizarre. Decisions like this are made in the spring, after official enrollment and deposit season ends (sometime in May in the SF Archdiocese), and threatened schools typically have a warning (of which everyone in the parish community is aware) of one or two years, to allow the community to rally if it can. If this decision was made early and not announced, that’s dishonest, unconscionable and unprofessional; if it was made suddenly in July, that’s inexplicable.

  3. Finley Lewis says:

    Bishop Ochoa was formerly the bishop of El Paso Texas.

  4. If Bishop Armando X. Ochoa is not responsible for the evil intended closing, then he needs to fire his staff persons who are.

    • Evil?
      Schools close because they no longer have enough paying customers, not because some “evil bishop” hates children and wants them to not know God.

  5. P.S. This is precisely what happened here in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, when Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone gave St. Rita School in Fairfax a “reprieve” after all the parents got dramatic.
    In spite of the “reprieve” the demographics didn’t change, enrollment didn’t go up, and so the school closed this summer.
    I understand that people get upset over such things, but if you don’t have enough students to keep the place running, it must shut. Good Catholic teachers need a living wage, and they have their own families to support. Without enough paying customers, schools do close.

    • Tom Byrne says:

      The information needed to keep a school open or closed is known by the end of spring. It is not professional to make a decision (or announce a decision) this close to the start of the new school year. This old teacher would like to know what the heck happened?

      • Michael says:

        I have no idea what happened.
        However, in some cases people make promises they later renege on (e.g., “we’ll be sending our five children to your school next fall!”), and the school pays the price.
        This happens a lot, which is WHY schools can’t accurately present a budget to the bishop until the fall, which is when they have a better, but still imperfect, idea of how many paying customers will actually be part of the new school year!

        • Tom Byrne says:

          I’m a 35-year veteran Catholic school teacher with an administrative credential. Experienced administrators know by the end of April or May what will or is likely to happen. Schools present proposed budgets in the spring which are finalized October 1, but unless there was some inexplicable screw-up, those budgets usually coincide. Any school with dropping numbers is put on a “watch list” and the whole community knows it well in advance. Unless your superintendent was Rufus T. Firefly, you just don’t say: “Whoops! Good-by!” in the middle of summer. If this school was on a watch list (not stated), somebody messed up.

  6. FrMichael says:

    I’m a little incredulous that they pulled it off, but I guess with a patroness like that all things are possible! God’s blessings upon this little school! If it’s a good school, I hope other Catholic children would be drawn to it.

  7. All catholic schools must stay open lower the price get more children coming. How do we protect our children from all the evil if we close schools. I can’t afford a catholic school myself but if I could my kids would be in a catholic school. In the past how did catholic school begin so much money today is involved. What happened? God bless our catholic schools and may he protect the families and children and may it be affordable for even poor families. Amen

    • Anonymous says:

      Annette, you really must come to terms with the fact that on this planet we don’t have tons of money, to runs schools and pay a living wages to our teachers and janitors, unless of course we get enough families who care enough to register their children for a good, solid Catholic school.
      “Little House on the Prairie” was a very sweet television series, but times have changed, and, even as we can’t afford to have a church on every corner (paying for maintenance, salaries, utilities, etc.), we also can’t afford to have a school every place we’d like to.
      So…we must also focus on offering our children and families an ongoing religious education program, to keep them grounded in their Catholic faith!

    • In SFO in many Catholic Schools – the majority of the children are not Catholic.
      Non-Catholic parents demand that their children not be taught the Catholic Faith.
      Then they publically fight the Abp when it comes to requiring teachers to be moral.

      When Catholic schools have too many non-Catholic students, the doors should close.

  8. Anonymous says:

    We were told Friday that our little school is closing. It’s all about money. So sad

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