Divine Mercy Leaves Struggling School Debt Free

In an act of “divine mercy”, the Diocese of Saint John has donated the former property of St. Peter’s Church to the entirely debt-free Divine Mercy Catholic School (DMCS).

In December 2021, Bishop Christian Riesbeck formally handed over ownership of the church rectory building to the school which had been leasing the space to the diocese since 2009. As part of this arrangement, Holy Redeemer Parish of Saint John plans to donate part of the former property of St. Peter’s Church, including the gymnasium, chapel and school grounds to the City of New Brunswick.

In the fall of 2020, Riesbeck approached the Redemptorist Province of Canada (Redemptorists), an order of priests who served the diocese out of Old St. $200,000 for the mortgage so the property could be given to DMCS without debt. In return, the diocese would cancel the largest debt of nearly a million dollars for the renovation of the building to make it a school.

“We had inherited a debt that we could never repay,” said Judy Burnham, director of DMCS. “There is simply no way we will be able to repay a million dollars. We paid our minimum amount since 2009. We knew we were barely making a dent because it was too huge a debt for us that went month to month with tuition and fundraising and no government support. We made ends meet, that’s about it.

“It kind of reminds me of what the Catholic Church always says, especially around Divine Mercy Sunday: ‘We have a debt from our sin that we can’t pay and that’s why Christ died on the cross for us, so that he can pay our debt. .’ This is exactly what happened to us. »

In the absence of Catholic schools in Saint John, there was a great void for Catholic families. Burnham taught at one of the local secondary schools for years and later ran a home school where she raised her seven children. Given her range of teaching and experience, the community found her to be the ideal person to lead the school. Serving Kindergarten to Grade 8, they started with just 25 students in 2003 and have grown today to 111 with seven teachers.

Riesbeck, who grew up in Ontario’s publicly funded Catholic education system, says he understands its value and importance.

“As a product of Catholic education myself having grown up in Ontario and having seen firsthand the wonderful dedication of the administration and staff of DMCS to providing a top notch Catholic education for its students, we want to ensure that the school will be able to continue its mission and leave a legacy for the benefit of present and future generations of young students and families who value Catholic education,” he said.

With increasing enrollment and waiting lists for many grades, owning the school building means DMCS can now focus on regular fundraising needs as well as community projects. capital to accommodate the growing student population. The Redemptorists were delighted to accede to this request as a testimony to the evangelistic legacy of their many years of service to the people of Saint John.

“The Divine Mercy Catholic School is a treasure that the Lord has planted in this fertile field,” the father said. Mark Miller, Regional Coordinator. “Redemptorists feel that their legacy is not only being carried on, but being built. May God continue to bless the students, staff, supporters and the diocese through the wonderful gift of Divine Mercy Catholic School.

The school is home to various sports teams, an internationally diverse student body, and a nationally renowned choir. Its mission, says Burnham, is to love each child as Christ loves and nurture the whole child, his mind, body and spirit. This is why so many parents value the education they receive at school, she believes. They will continue to work to keep tuition affordable to ensure it does not become out of reach for families.

In today’s global climate, and given the favor and grace God has bestowed on the school for nearly two decades, Burnham says the name couldn’t be more apt.

“We first met to decide on school on a Divine Mercy Sunday,” Burnham said. “It’s the Sunday after Easter, so we thought about that when we decided on a name and thought it was really providential. … We often reiterate that name when talking to our students about the importance for us to have pity on each other and to have to really depend on the mercy of God.

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