MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The Heart of Mary Catholic School, which has operated for 121 years and played an important role in Mobile’s civil rights movement, might be forced to close its doors. But a strong push from the community may keep those doors open.

Heart of Mary Catholic School has been running since 1901. But as the City of Mobile moves westward, attendance has declined. With declining attendance came the decision to close the school at the end of the semester. School officials working to raise money to keep the school open.

“Heart of my Mary is my heart, I went there as a kindergartner,” said Karlos Finley, School Board Director. “At Heart of Mary we were taught we were as good as anyone and if we worked really hard we could be better.”

From 1969 to 1975, Finley followed in his aunt and uncle’s footsteps and attended the school with his brothers and sisters. It was impactful to attend a school that instilled encouragement in all of their students during difficult times.

It was a community that stood on the right side of the civil rights movement. Finley was there. He said no other churches would allow the Neighborhood Organized Workers, the leading civil rights organization in Mobile, to meet at their church, except Heart of Mary. It was a staple in the community for those who felt like they had nowhere else to go to express their rights.

“The nuns and priests actually protested along with those civil rights workers and went to jail with them when they were arrested protesting in 1968 at the America’s Junior Miss contest,” said Finley.  

Their demand was to have African Americans to be hired in leadership roles. Heart of Mary played an important role in fighting for civil rights for all people in the city of Mobile, and they want to continue to teach the word of the Lord and the importance of equal rights.

“We were there,” said Finley. “We were fighting for this community, and we will continue to fight for this community.” 

A changing city has lead to a decline in enrollment, but Finley said the commute is worth their unique curriculum, where they are taught by teachers who only teach in their specialized disciplines. 

“So I sit here today as an attorney in Mobile, Alabama, because there is room at the top and that was instilled in me at heart of Mary and we want to make sure that is instilled in many children moving forward,” Finley expressed.

For the school bells to ring again next year, they need to raise $300,000. If you’d like to help keep the 121 years of history running, they have a Go Fund Me page.