PORTLAND – A group of parents is working on proposals to keep a downtown parochial school open next year, but they say they are having trouble arranging a meeting with Bishop Richard J. Malone.

The Diocese of Portland announced last month that Cathedral School on Cumberland Avenue will close after this year because of finances. The diocese said the school is running a deficit of $115,000, which would more than double if Cathedral continued to operate next year.

Church officials said tuition no longer covers costs at the 147-year-old school.

The bishop offered on May 6 to meet with a group that wants to propose a different funding model, but members of the group said they have not been able to set up a meeting due to questions over who would be involved in the meeting, as well as scheduling issues.

“It’s disappointing” that the meeting hasn’t been held, said Michele Bernier, who has a daughter at Cathedral.

Michael Cantlin, a parishioner who doesn’t have children in the school, said many in the parish are upset about the decision to close Cathedral.

He said the school’s mission is “to serve the needy, the vulnerable and the underserved of our community … regardless of current condition, popularity and, certainly, how much money is in our pockets.”

Bernier said a group of parents has been researching funding methods in other dioceses and found some in which money for parochial schools from a number of parishes is routed to a diocese, which then distributes it to schools.

Currently, much of the responsibility for the cost of a parochial school in the Portland diocese is borne by the parish where it is located.

She also said other parishioners have offered to contribute to a special fundraising effort to retire the deficit, so the approach could address both the short- and long-term financial issues at the school.

Sue Bernard, a spokeswoman for the diocese, issued a statement Monday afternoon saying the bishop “understands the passion and concern of the parents for their children.”

The statement also said “the decision to close the school was postponed for years while a number of groups of committed parents as well as clergy and lay leadership worked to reverse the financial problems.”

It went on to say that Malone would meet “with a small representative group of parents” to hear any new proposals. In an email, Bernard said the bishop’s office has offered a date but she didn’t know if it had been accepted and confirmed by the parents’ group.

Cantlin said the research by the parents suggested a different financing model has worked elsewhere, but he said time is short to present it and win support from the diocese in order to stave off the closing.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]