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Diocese Moves Forward With Plan To Open New Catholic High School In Lee's Summit

The departure of Bishop Robert Finn won’t stall the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese’s plan to open a new high school in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, next fall.

St. Michael the Archangel High School is expected to open in fall 2016 with about 360 students, mostly students from St. Mary's in Independence, Missouri, which closed last year, and Archbishop O'Hara High School, which will close when the new school opens.

"It centralizes our efforts in Jackson County in a highly populated area that's growing quickly," says Steve Hilliard, director of stewardship, planning and development for the diocese.

Hilliard says the newly-appointed Archbishop Joseph Naumann will provide the continuous leadership needed to open the high school on time. 

The diocese is still fundraising to bring the school to fruition.

But Hilliard doesn't think Finn, who was convicted of a misdemeanor for failing to report suspected child abuse in the case of an Independence priest, Shawn Ratigan, hurt those efforts.

“I don’t think specifically fundraising was necessarily hindered by Bishop Finn. Actually, Bishop Finn provided very strong leadership for Catholic education,” Hilliard says, though he added that the Ratigan case may have impacted some Catholics' willingness to give.

Hilliard said a tough economy after the 2008 financial collapse also slowed efforts to raise money for the school.

"You build a new high school in an urban area, and you're a diocese like ours where there's 27 counties spread across all of Northwest Missouri, it's sometimes hard for people to see how that impacts their lives," he says. "We made a case. In many cases, parishes in rural areas responded very well, and some didn't respond as well as he would have liked."

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