MONTHS of speculation and rumor among area Catholics end this afternoon when Archbishop Charles Chaput and a 16-member Blue Ribbon Commission are expected to announce which Catholic schools the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will shut down.

Chaput, along with John Quindlen, a former DuPont exec who chairs the commission, and other panel members will present recommendations and discuss them at a 4 p.m. news conference at archdiocesan headquarters, 17th Street near Race.

In an unprecedented letter to area Catholics last month, Chaput warned that the commission "will likely counsel that some, and perhaps many, schools must close or combine."

It was unclear yesterday which schools would close and when.

In the months leading up to today, the closures have been a source of discussion and speculation among teachers, parents, students and administrators, none of whom knew of the decisions to be made by commission members.

Chaput is expected to inform priests and principals of the closures at 10 a.m. today at Neumann University in Aston, Delaware County. Principals of the schools slated to be closed were supposed to be contacted by phone before the meeting, sources said.

Meanwhile, on Facebook and Twitter, alums of high schools rumored to be closing - West Catholic; St. Hubert, in the Northeast; and Conwell-Egan, in Fairless Hills - were bracing for the news.

"To the entire SH community, from the oldest & proud alum to the youngest student, the faculty & staff . . . I am praying for all of you tomorrow!" one alum wrote in the St. Hubert's Facebook group. "I am confident that SH will be here for many years to come, but it must be difficult to have to sit around and wait to hear this!"

A West Catholic alum wrote: "Our West Catholic may be taken from us, but our great memories will never be taken from us . . . My heart will be broke to hear the news."

The afternoon news conference will be streamed live at www. archphila.org. When it starts, the website wwwfaithinthefuture. com will go live with the Blue Ribbon Commission report and updates from the Office of Catholic Education.