Gazette Article by: Barbara Joyce
Appeared in the Gazette: Winter 1998
For more than 95 years, Sacred Heart School has been an integral part of its parish. The founder and first pastor of the parish, Reverend Frederic J. Haarth, established the school in 1902.
Construction of the school began as soon as the church and rectory were completed. The first building, similar to the church in its Gothic style, conveniently housed both the school and a convent for the Franciscan nuns who taught there. It adjoined the church on the east side, facing Tower Road.
In 1952 the original building was torn down and replaced with a new school located on Gage Street. In advancing his plans for the new school, pastor Monsignor Reynold Hillenbrand wrote the members of Sacred Heart, “Children are the most important charges of a parish because their lives are just unfolding for them. The school that educates them is most important because they are.” Hillenbrand envisioned a school that would serve both children and adults—a place for children to learn and live out their faith, and a center for adults’ cultural and social events.
Since Sacred Heart School’s opening with 56 students, its enrollment has fluctuated, reaching a peak of 548 students in 1961. By 1986 the school population had fallen to 114 students, its lowest number since 1943. The shrinking enrollment was due in part to the cost of tuition (which follows Chicago Archdiocesan guidelines) and the excellent reputation of local public schools.
Despite this, the school has lived on. The enduring value of Catholic education, coupled with an increase in the number of young families in the parish, has infused the school with new life. By the 1998-99 school year, 239 students were enrolled.
The new principal, Sister Kathleen Donnelly, O. P., provides a link between the past and future. A 1959 graduate of Sacred Heart, she looks to its history as a source of identity. “We want to build on traditions of respect,” Sister Donnelly said recently, “respect for ourselves as individuals and as a group.” She understands the school as vital to the parish. “The future of Church leadership lies in our youth.
. . . We’re encouraging our kids to be healthy, wholesome, contributing members of society.”