Catholic school closes after 115 years of education

By Michele Chan Santos

Correspondent

After 115 years of providing local children with a strong Catholic education, Sts. Cyril & Methodius Catholic School in Granger has closed. Granger has about 1,200 residents and is located on Highway 95 just north of Taylor and 18 miles east of Georgetown.

"Sts. Cyril & Methodius Catholic School and Parish can take great pride in knowing that they have touched the lives of so many families over the past 115 years by providing Catholic education to the community of Granger," said Dr. Ned Vanders, superintendent of Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Austin. "After reviewing the shifting demographics of the community, the difficult decision was made to close the school."

"Having been in Catholic education myself for over 45 years, I know firsthand the impact that the school has had on both the students and their families," Dr. Vanders said. "To experience the Catholic faith throughout the course of the school day is a special gift and privilege that the thousands of students who attended Sts. Cyril & Methodius will never forget. Because Sts. Cyril & Methodius Catholic School ministered not only to the students who attended but also to the families as well, the Gospel values have spread timelessly far beyond the school doors."

Although for many years the school educated children from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade (and for a while, seventh and eighth grades) enrollment had dropped over the years. Last year’s (2012-2013) total enrollment for pre-K through sixth grade was 28 students.

Last fall it operated only as an early childhood program for preschoolers ages 2 to 4, and that program ended in January.

It is a bittersweet ending for a school that marked its 100th anniversary during the 1999-2000 school year, with a special celebration on Jan. 24, 2000, the 100th day of the 100th year. The school was founded in 1899.

Sister of Divine Providence Catherine Fuhrmann has been an integral part of the life of the school since 1995. She taught third grade and was the religious education coordinator from 1995 to 2003. Since her retirement in 2003, she regularly volunteered at the school.

"We have no regrets when we look back," Sister Fuhrmann said. "We thank God for what has been. It has been an awesome journey. We have grateful hearts."

She said the school’s students excelled in academics and had good study skills.

"Many of them went on to become valedictorian and salutatorian at Granger High School and other area high schools," she said. "We can always be proud of our students, wherever they went."

Nuns from the Sisters of Divine Providence in San Antonio are part of the school’s history and first came to the school in 1901.

"We fulfilled our mission all the way through," Sister Fuhrmann said.

Ellen Wolf taught at Sts. Cyril & Methodius School for more than 30 years. At different times she taught first grade, fourth grade and seventh grade, served as the religious education coordinator after Sister Fuhrmann retired. Wolf specialized in physical education, science and health.

The school is also an integral part of Wolf’s family history. Her mother, Mary (Martinka) Merka, attended the school, as did Ellen’s husband, Daniel Wolf. Ellen and Daniel’s children: Lisa Wolf Vanek, Amelia Wolf and William Wolf, were all students at Sts. Cyril & Methodius, as were their grandchildren, Connor Vanek and Isabella Vanek.

Ellen Wolf is teary-eyed but smiling as she gives a tour of the building, happily recounting memories of Christmas programs, fall socials, basketball games, plays and musicals. Instruction in music and art, use of the library and science lab, and time in the computer lab were all part of the education at Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

"We tried to make the children as well-rounded as we could," Wolf said.

In the future, the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Granger will use the two-story building, constructed in 1947, for its religious education classes.

"It’s very hard, but I saw it coming," Wolf said of the school closure. "It was a hardship for the parents whose children came here last year. It was very difficult for families when we cut the older grades" in the summer of 2013.

The school "was a family, and very family oriented," Wolf said. "This school was a treasure. It helped many, many children in their journey through life. Not just academically, but spiritually. It was a wonderful foundation for them in many ways."

Sister Fuhrmann said the school was where children could come and feel loved and feel secure. With it closing, she said, "It would not be human to not feel pain, but we can always cherish our memories."

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