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Following upon the far-reaching measures adopted by the
Council of Baltimore of 1884 regarding religious education of both native
and in iigrant children, pastors throughout the country began to implement
its decrees. Since
a large percentage of immigrants came from countries where English was not spoken,
the bishops formulated the policy of assigning priests of the same ethnic backgrounds
as their congregations who would be in touch with the spirit and the aspirations
of their people.
It was at this time that there came to Father Lechert in Rome an appeal from
a Resurrectionist confrere in Chicago, Father Vincent M. Barzynski, pastor of
St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, dated October 13, 1884, pressing for European Sisters
to staff a school and an orphanage. Father Lechert was the spiritual director
of Mother Mary Frances Siedliska, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters
of the Holy Family of Nazareth, founded in Rome, 1875.
Later in February of 1885, Archbishop Patrick A. Feehan of Chicago addressed
himself directly to Mother Mary urging her to send the Sisters, if possible,
by the month of July. Thus it was that in that month, Mother Mary with her group
of eleven Sisters arrived in Chicago, where they were met by Father Barzynski.
Amid poverty and privation they were accommodated in a building that housed St.
Josaphat's church, school and convent. In the latter, they also met ten orphans
who until then had been cared for by the parishioners.
Considering the drive that marked the Catholic population to create parish schools,
Mother Mary laid plans for a house of the American Province where aspiring candidates
would receive religious formation and preparatory education. She found what was
estimated to be a good location along Division Street, between Cleaver and Holt
(now Greenview) streets. The two existing buildings on the property afforded
the Sisters the accommodation they needed. On March 19, 1886, the Archbishop
celebrated the first Mass in the newly furnished chapel. This home, and the events
woven into it, mark the beginning of the history of the present Holy Family Academy
located at 1444 West Division Street.
The Sisters began their apostolic ministry there by organizing evening classes
for the continuing education of working girls. Religion, literature, composition,
practical mathematics, and the useful arts were taught. Young women who lived
too far away came to be instructed on Sundays. Because of the cultural scope
of the classes, upon recommendation of the Archbishop, the school began to be
listed officially as an academy. A full-time academic course of instruction in
the Holy Family Academy dates from October 1, 1887. Just two years later the
first day of the new school term numbered fifty-eight registrants with more students
applying during thefirst months. In a period of unemployment and low wages, when
of girls in a private school bordered on luxury, the registrations at Holy Family
Academy were, indeed, gestures of confidence in the new school.
The ever increasing number of students, and the fact that the boarding school
accommodations had been provided for a large number, made imperative the construction
of a larger building. The driving force in the planning and construction of larger
facilities was Mother Lauretta Lubwidzka. With voluntary funds coming from people
who understood the challenges and opportunities dawning for women at the turn
of the century, a new four-story building was erected upon the site where the
early wooden buildings had stood. Archbishop Feehan officiated at the laying of
cornerstone, July 31, 1892.
Even this realization, however, was not the final answer. Progressive! steady
growth necessitated planning for enlarged accommodations ti eliminate congestion
at both the elementary and the secondary levels. Fo, this purpose four adjacent
lots on Cleaver and Division streets were purchased. In attempting renewed expansion
the Sisters were stepping forward into the 1920s with a deep faith in God's providence.
In moving with the times the new building, completed and opened in 1927, was
fully equipped to provide accommodation and facilities for high school students
whose curriculum embraced both academic and commercial departments. Already in
the early 1920s the academy was granted recognition and accreditation by the
North Central Association of Secondary Schools and by the State of Illinois.
By the mid-1930s, enrollment at the academy began to approach four hundred.
The education given at Holy Family Academy and in the other schools of the Congregation
bears the stamp of the basic principles which Mother Mary's educational program
embodied. The point that most concerned her was that, whatever system of education
her daughters might determine to inaugurate, it was to embody the education of
girls in a family atmosphere and for the family, so that through the regeneration
of the family, the entire society would eventually be helped and supported.
After World War II a new surge of immigrants looked to Holy Family Academy as
a haven for the daughters of European families. In the late 1950s and the early
1960s, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Filipino, and black students began to enroll at
the academy, thus adding to the flavor of ethnic cultures and the wealth of distinctive
heritages of the past to future generations.
From the very beginning in the 1880s, Holy Family Academy has been and still
is staffed by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Then, as now, lay teachers'
help was sought and relied upon as the need arose. Dedicated teachers have consistently
endeavored to make Holy Family Academy a vibrant center of Christian family living
and activity consonant with religious basic principles.
Currently, Holy Family Academy has an enrollment of 350 girls and a faculty of
nineteen religious and seven lay teachers. Administration of the high school
is entrusted to the principal, Sister Jacquelin Hyzy.
Academic excellence remains one of the primary goals. The diversified curriculum
includes courses which are college preparatory, business oriented, or general
in scope. The Academy facilities include a beautiful chapel, library, three science
laboratories, classrooms, cafeteria, swimming pool, and an auditorium-gymnasium
From "A History of
the Offices, Agencies, and the Institutions Of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1981
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese