"Although things are challenged, I think (Chicago) is a Catholic community that's always supported its schools," McCaughey said. "I think the support will be there."
Outside of St. Bernardine Elementary in west suburban Forest Park, one of the schools that will close this summer, Maria Maxham said she was devastated when she heard last month that she'd have to send her children, one in second grade and the other in fourth grade, to a different school.
Maxham, who lives in Forest Park, said she is not sure the two will attend another local Catholic school because some lack what she thought was St. Bernardine's strength.
"There is so much diversity at St. Bernardine, and that's part of what makes it so fantastic," Maxham said. "It was a special place and a second family for us."
The school, which has been open since 1915, has about 100 students currently enrolled in its preschool-through-eighth-grade classrooms.
Administrators, teachers and parents were notified of the closing in January, when McCaughey led a meeting at the school and explained the large amount of money that the archdiocese needed to reduce from the schools budget, Principal Veronica Skelton Cash said.
One family left the school shortly after hearing the news, she added.
Cash, who joined the school in the fall, said there was much frustration among staff members afterward. Many believed they would have at least a few years to turn things around.
"I could see a lot of things changing for the better at this school," Cash said. "The culture of the community is changing, and we were getting more and more inquiries about the school. There was momentum going forward."
Current employees were given guidance on severance and benefits by the archdiocese's human resources officials, Cash said. Teachers without jobs will also be placed on a priority list for future employment with the archdiocese, she said.
"I'm incredibly disheartened," said Daniel Kwarcinski, who hopes to find a job at another private school after teaching art for seven years at St. Bernardine. "There's a need for a school like this where we are at."
In Rome, George said the decisions to let people go and reduce aid were not easy. But he reiterated that the archdiocese's financial situation drove the decision.
"We have to balance the budget, especially if it's precarious," he said. "The growth being very slow means we can no longer ignore the kinds of deficit situations that have been imposed on us. We have to take action."
Tribune reporter Manya A. Brachear reported from Rome, with Tribune reporters Bridget Doyle and Jennifer Delgado in Chicago.