A former PC offers this guest post:
News has come out from the girls’ boarding school in Wakefield, Immaculate Conception Academy, that the school is closing. Enrollment and tuition are down, and the Movement can no longer afford to keep it open. Meanwhile, the precandidacy program is moving to Michigan. The girls will attend Everest Academy in Oxford, while maintaining their own program.
This change means that the girls will be attending school with “normal” teenagers, including boys. It’s a big step along a process of loosening the restrictions on the precandidates. Recent rules changes have included a reduction in the amount of prayer time expected, a change in the dress code permitting pants on outings, and an increase in the amount of phone time with family.
A current consecrated wrote on Facebook:
In the US, as I understand, they also want the PCs to be more in contact with the "real world", not as sheltered, so that they mature as is normal. They will be a group apart, but will go to class with the school at Oxford, as the letter explains. . . . So that's part of the reason why they're going to Michigan, it's not only because of the Movement's economic situation.
Economics do seem to be a factor, though. They insist they will not be selling the school building, but “haven’t decided yet” what to use it for.
Caroline Wilders, the outgoing director, posted about the change as well:
With this announcement comes another one which you probably have already heard about: Immaculate Conception Academy is relocating to Michigan at the end of this school year. The PCs will live at the Oxford center and will attend classes at Everest Collegiate. This was a plan that has been in the works for some time. As the enrollment has gone down, tuition has decreased, and in the changing world we live in we needed to find ways to adapt our excellent program to the changing needs of the adolescents who attend the PC. . . . In addition the geographical location is more central and therefore closer to the majority of the students’ families enabling more frequent family visits.
The new director will be Margarita Martinez, a former precandidate who has been consecrated for sixteen years.
As a former precandidate myself, it does sound like good news. Things are opening up a bit, so that the girls are able to be exposed to some influences outside their formators’ control. However, is it really any more than a cosmetic change? Will the girls be discouraged from forming exclusive friendships with each other and “outsiders,” from talking with male classmates, or from telling anyone about what it’s like in the PC program? So far the voices coming out of the precandidacy have the same tone they always had, still upbeat and optimistic despite having been forced to make this drastic change. How can we ever know if that’s real?
As a “last hurrah” for the school, they are hosting a reunion of all former PC’s this Memorial Day weekend. It’s supposed to be “just like the old days,” with a similar schedule and activities. They are opening up a dorm for the former PC’s to stay in. Many former precandidates have been very excited about this chance to relive the good times, while others hope to go for some sense of closure.
I think it is nice that, after years of ignoring former precandidates, forbidding current PC’s to write to us, and pretending we don’t exist, they are finally opening their home to us. On the other hand, it isn’t free. They are estimating a cost of “about $150” for the weekend, including “the expenses such as eight meals, busses, electricity and water, etc.” For those who choose to stay in a hotel and furnish their own food, there will be a smaller fee. Is this a gift to us, or a fundraising attempt? Those who are going are also taking up a collection to give the precandidates a gift, such as a statue of Mary, to take with them to Michigan.
Many of the women invited were looking forward to sharing negative as well as positive experiences with their old classmates. But it’s beginning to look as though, just like old times, that sort of talk will not be welcome. The coordinator of the event, a former precandidate, wrote on the Facebook wall of the event:
Also, for everyone’s general information.........I realize that the issue of Regnum Christi is like the elephant in the room. I, as much as anyone, have questions. Father Luis Garza will be doing questions at 11:15 on Sunday for anyone that wants to come...........I think this would be maybe a good time to come up with any questions you may have that are unanswered. Rather than ruin everyone’s great memories of what we received and put a cloud over the fun we could have..........lets save it for the questions period. If you didn't like your PC experience, don’t come............I mean this in all charity. But this event is for those of us that want clarity, closing, to reunite, have fun, relax, etc...........Hopefully this way, these issues can be addressed without upsetting others around us. Cant wait to see everyone there!
Posting of links to the ReGain website were also deleted.
After hearing all of this, I decided I had no interest in attending. But many of the disaffected former precandidates who had been invited instead formed their own Facebook group, in the hopes of sharing their stories and finding closure on their own. Perhaps that will be a positive result of this reunion.