Now Is the Time: Holy Name High School Plans to Re-Open After 50 Years


Holy Name High School Escanaba MI

Courtesy of Holy Name High School Planning Committee.

In 1971, Holy Name High School closed its doors. There are plans to reopen the school in 2021.

By Victoria R. LaFave and Holy Name High School Planning Committee

Nestled among 8.8 million acres of forested land on the shores of Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, one Catholic school is trying to re-open its former thriving Catholic high school.

Holy Name Catholic School (HNCS), located in the small community of Escanaba, Michigan – a stronghold of Catholicism with 35.7% of the population being Catholic — is one of nine Catholic schools in the Diocese of Marquette.

The Holy Name High School Planning Committee has formulated a plan to re-open Holy Name High School in the fall of 2021 – fifty years after it closed in 1971.

When Holy Name High School closed its doors, the building became an elementary school and was later renamed Holy Name Catholic School.

Today, 329 Pre-K through eighth grade students are enrolled. Not only is the school growing, it is reaching its maximum capacity. (Originally built as HNHS in the early 1950s, the current school building can house approximately 350 students.)

Known throughout the community for its family atmosphere, strong academics, and authentic witness to the faith, Holy Name’s motto — “It’s more than a school. It’s a way of life!” — saturates every aspect of the school’s culture.

In the 11 years that Principal Joseph Carlson has been at Holy Name Catholic School, one of the most frequent questions he has been asked is “When is Holy Name going to reopen the high school?”

Mr. Carlson says he always responds, “When God wants it!”

Despite an abundant Catholic population, there are currently no Catholic high schools throughout the entire Upper Peninsula. Since five of the nine Catholic schools in the Diocese of Marquette are roughly an hour away from Escanaba, it is an ideal location for a high school to serve families across the region.

A year and a half ago, a group of parents began the grassroots effort to explore the possibility of expanding HNCS to include a high school. Led by prayer, this group developed a plan to make this dream a reality and completed an extensive study on the feasibility of the project. The resulting plan and study were presented to Bishop John Doerfler for discernment.

Recently, Holy Name Catholic School announced that not only has Bishop Doerfler granted his approval to begin a capital campaign to raise the funds needed to reopen Holy Name Catholic High School, he has also promised a lead donation of $100,000 of diocesan funds for a matching gift challenge. In January 2019, HNCS launched its multi-million dollar High School Capital Campaign to raise the funds needed to reopen the high school. This campaign, to be completed in two phases, has been designed to open Holy Name Catholic High School to students in the U.P. as a financially self-sustaining, accredited high school.

The first phase of the campaign focuses on opening Holy Name Catholic High School by fall 2021 to begin providing the gift of a Catholic high school education to students across the Upper Peninsula. The HNHS Committee plans on the school’s tuition being affordable for families in the region, where many earn below the state median income. The funds raised during this phase will be used to establish an endowment that will offset operating costs so that families will be able to pay a more affordable tuition, as well as for additional scholarships. The school also plans to offer a billeting program to students residing out of the area. A billeting program will allow students to stay with local families during the school week for a modest fee to cover room and board. Not only will this option offer the students the opportunity for a Catholic high school education, it will also foster relationships that can last a lifetime, strengthening the network of Catholic families throughout the Upper Peninsula.

The second phase of the fundraising effort will fund a new addition to accommodate the high school students. The success of the current school has laid a strong foundation for the high school, including abounding enrollment, growing from 258 students to 329 students in the past ten years; superb test scores on state and national assessments; Holy Name alumni who are consistently top achievers in local public high schools; and several vocations to the priesthood.

Courtesy of Holy Name High School Planning Committee.

“It is clear that more and more parents are recognizing the importance of an authentic Catholic education,” HNHS Planning Committee member Anne Carlson said. “The benefits of Catholic education cannot be understated.”

Illustrating Mrs. Carlson’s point, a 2014 CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) report states that only five percent of Catholics graduating secular high school continue worshipping at weekly Mass as adults.

Holy Name High School Committee member Annette Whitman said, “We all hope for the very best for our children. We want them to live good, productive lives and eventually get to heaven. We want them to realize their God-given potential and use the gifts God has bestowed on them. A Catholic environment is the very best place to teach the faith, develop character, and form holy souls for God. Our present school, Holy Name Catholic School, has a reputation for producing students who are known to be strong in the faith and academically prepared for high school. However, we need to complete the training of these students and bring them to adulthood.”

Given these exciting achievements, as well as the importance of a Catholic high school education for our children, the founders are aiming big: to make Holy Name Catholic High School available to all families in the Upper Peninsula. “In order to achieve these goals, we need your help,” Principal Joseph Carlson said. “As faithful Catholics, we ask for your prayers for this endeavor. God has shown us every step of the way thus far and we trust Him to help provide us with the financial support we need.”  For more information, visit NowIsTheTimeHNHS.com or contact the school at (906) 786-7550.

Courtesy of Holy Name High School Planning Committee.

Victoria R. LaFave writes for Today’s Catholic Teacher and for Holy Name Catholic School and The Bishop Noa Home, both in Escanaba, Michigan. Several of her stories have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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