Archdiocese, school respond to lawsuit over $5 million gift - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Archdiocese, school respond to lawsuit over $5 million gift

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Our Lady of Mercy school is set to close (WFSB) Our Lady of Mercy school is set to close (WFSB)

Supporters trying to keep a Catholic school in Madison open are now suing the Archdiocese over a multimillion dollar gift left to the school by a Madison man.

Two sides don’t see eye to eye about the schools and the money and now it looks like this is going to be settled in court.

“The traditions that we have, the extracurriculars, we have a wonderful mock trial program, a wonderful play, a wonderful some robotics program going on.  All of that is coming with us.  All the things they’ve loved are continuing,” said Cheryl Panzo, principal of Our Lady of Mercy.

Panzo, the current principal at Our Lady of Mercy will be the principal of the East Shoreline Catholic Academy when it opens this fall.

East Shoreline Catholic will be merging Our Lady of Mercy along with Saint Mary’s in Branford, where the new school, focusing on science, technology, religion, engineering, arts, and math, will be housed.

“With all the analysis that’s been done and all the options that have been presented, it really seems to the majority that this is the right place, the right time and the right model,” said Father Jeff Shanley, from the Archdiocese of Hartford.

The parishes that support the Madison school, say the enrollment was down, and that the lease in Madison would be up in 2023.

“In being to put these schools together, we’re able to utilize first of all a building that we own, as oppose to one that was going back the sisters.  Their property, we were leasing that property and they wanted the property back,” said Father Dan McLearen of St. Margaret’s Parish.

There are some in Madison, calling themselves Our Lady of Mercy strong, that want an independent Catholic school to stay in Madison.

They have the support of the family of Fred Rettich, a Madison man who when he died in 2013, gifted nearly five million dollars to Our Lady of Mercy, or its successor.

His sister-in-law, the executor, is suing the Archdiocese, trying to keep the money from the new combined school.

“It was given to the school in Madison and it cannot be taken. I don’t even know how they can call it a successor school when it goes to Branford,” said Maria Derblom, Rettich’s executor.

“We believe that this is the successor school to Our Lady of Mercy and to St Mary’s and unfortunately, as you presented on the show, there is pending litigation, so we cannot comment on the individual aspects on that litigation at the moment,” said Shanley.

As for the lawsuit in civil court, a judge was recently assigned to the case.

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