Lawsuit filed against Archdiocese over $5 million gift to Madison school

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

Supporters trying to keep a Catholic school in Madison are now suing the Archdiocese.

At the center of the lawsuit is a nearly $5 million gift.

Parents and students, and the executor of Fred Rettich’s will, said that money was given to Our Lady of Mercy in Madison.

However, with the school closing at the end of the year, they want that money back.

“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.

She said her brother-in-law Fred Rettich loved Madison. That’s why in his will he left behind the family’s farm land, more than 11 acres to the Madison Conservation Land Trust, along with a sizable financial gift to Our Lady of Mercy school on Neck Road.

In 2012, he first gave the school $500,000.

Then after he passed away in 2013, the Catholic school got more than $4.7 million.

“When a successor school was termed in his will, he knew the school had been under different ownership, but the same location in Madison. That would have been reasonable if it changed name, but at the same location, but not to move to another town he spent no time in,” said Karina Julius, Rettich’s niece.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Our Lady of Mercy would close.

While the Archdiocese said the new East Shoreline Catholic Academy, housed at St. Mary’s of Branford, will be the successor school.

Those behind the push to have a new Our Lady of Mercy in Madison, along with the Rettich family saying the money should stay in Madison and not move to Branford.

“They did not consult me, like I said, I was the executor and I do have a responsibility,” said Derblom.

A parent group calling themselves “OLM Strong” is working to open an independent Catholic school in town next year.

They’ve already raised more than $1 million in pledges and are talking with the town about possibly leasing the Island Avenue school after it closes in 2019.

“The Rettich’s left this money with the intention for it to be at this school and for the school to continue on and for the church to close it down when it didn’t need to close down, when it had the resources to stay here. It has been very disheartening,” said Vlad Coric, whose children go to Our Lady of Mercy.

However, the Archdiocese said enrollment at Our Lady of Mercy was down nearly 40 percent in the last five years.

As for the parent’s pushing to start their own Catholic based school in town, Archbishop Leonard Blair sent a letter to the town last month that said “I do not intend to grant or to recognize any other planned entity as a Catholic school in the area. Therefore any ‘new OLM school’ is not, and should not present itself, as a Catholic school.”

That’s why Derblom, as the executor of her late brother-in-law’s estate, filed a lawsuit.

“We felt that we had to go ahead with a lawsuit because we don’t know what’s happened with the money. We feel that moving the school to Branford is not in the interest in what my uncle wanted. He spent his entire life in Madison and felt very deeply about the children of Madison,” Julius said.

Those trying to keep a Catholic school in Madison said there’s a town meeting tentatively scheduled for July to vote on leasing the Island Avenue school from the town.

Copyright 2018 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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