A group organized to preserve the legacy of John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School suffered a legal setback Tuesday, but said it would continue both its legal battle and plans to open a new school this fall.
Orphans Court Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper has ruled that Friends of Hallahan – a group organized after the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced the closure of the country’s first Catholic Diocesan Girls’ High School – does not have legal standing to demand an account of how funds donated by school founder Mary Hallahan McMichan and others were distributed.
Woods-Skipper also lifted a temporary injunction preventing the Archdiocese from selling the precious Hallahan building at 19th and Wood Street in the city center.
Church officials and leaders of Faith in the Future, a non-profit organization organized to run diocesan schools, closed Hallahan and Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote this month. They spoke of declining registrations and financial problems.
READ MORE: Hallahan HS is closed, but supporters have plans for a new school. Legal battles swirl around.
J. Conor Corcoran, an attorney for Friends of Hallahan, said Tuesday’s court ruling was far from the end of the road for the group. He said he would file court documents again on behalf of a larger group, including a student and a current relative of Hallahan.
“Mary Hallahan McMichan has requested that this school be operated in perpetuity, and from time to time by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” said Corcoran. “They can go. They can give up their post if they wish. We have this non-profit organization that is ready to take on the role of Mary Hallahan McMichan. “
Corcoran said the group would seek to be appointed Hallahan money trustee and “to prevent the Archdiocese from sneaking in, trying to sell the property for $ 20 or $ 30 million.”
As lawyers and supporters from both sides clashed inside City Hall, a small group of Hallahan supporters gathered outside, praying and holding up signs declaring “Save Hallahan!” and “Girls’ education matters! “
“Where is Marie’s money?” We shouted.
Church officials have said they will ensure that all gifts for Hallahan students follow students to the new Archdiocesan schools.
Nan Gallagher, former president of Hallahan, is now chair of the Friends of Hallahan board of directors, leading plans to open what is called the “Center City Girls’ Academy,” a school that may open in the fall. It was originally supposed to be named Mary Hallahan McMichan and take Hallahan’s place, but the Archdiocese, in a cease and desist letter sent to the group, said it possessed Hallahan’s name.
Gallagher said the court ruling was a “minor setback, but we’re moving forward.” We will find a way. “
Gabby Maffei, who just finished her freshman year at Hallahan, wore her Hallahan uniform to court as a sign of faith binding her to a school she is still praying to reopen in September.
She and her classmates were “devastated” by the news of the closure, she said, but she still hopes “that we can continue to educate girls in the city center.”