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LEWISTON – St. Peter’s Catholic School on Center Street escaped the recent rounds of school closings by the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and now is out to make sure its future will never be in doubt.

It has added 40 students for this school year, and last weekend it put on a sold-out fundraiser, its annual Angelic Evening, which raised a record $60,000 for the school.

The community appears to be rallying around the prekindergarten through eighth-grade school.

Principal Maureen Ingham, in her second year leading the school, said there were 78 students when she came to the school. That number grew to 110 in the first year and now stands at approximately 151.

“We have worked very hard as a faculty and a school community to increase our enrollment. As you well know, many schools in the district – across the diocese – have been closed. The whole idea is to increase enrollment and offer highly competitive programs both in school and before and after school,” Ingham said.

“We are a small school, but we increased enrollment in one year by 33 percent, so we are very excited about that, and I believe the diocese has recognized our commitment to promote Catholic education and, therefore, we were not on the closing list,” she said. “That’s real strong support in what we are doing.”

She credited the church’s new pastor, the Rev. David Lipuma, for the concerted effort, as well as the dedication and effort of the teachers.

“I can’t speak highly enough about our new pastor, who has breathed new life into the parish, as well as the school. He loves kids and is in the building day in and day out,” Ingham said. “He’s an excellent people person, and even the parishioners are seeing the school in a new light.”

She said the Angelic Evening is the school’s major fundraiser and noted that, with the help of Lipuma, it sold tickets not just to parents but also to parishioners who don’t have children in the school but still want to support it.

“The parish supports the school and the parents pay tuition as well, but we have to raise an amount through the fundraiser to keep tuition affordable for families,” Ingham said.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com