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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 higher education 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 the 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 combination.

From "A History of the Offices, Agencies, and the Institutions Of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1981

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese

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