BACK TO THE LIST
By 1910, Rev. Casimir Sztuczko, C.S.C., realized that his Holy Trinity
parish on Noble Street, growing in number and sophistication, needed a
secondary school for boys. On September 8 of that year, in a small, abandoned,
gas-lighted print shop on Noble Street near Division street, the school
opened with twenty-six students. Father Sztuczko stated his direct and
simple aim: the school would attempt to train well-qualified leaders for
the Polish community, a burgeoning community of immigrants desperately
seeking to both preserve for themselves and their children their deep cultural
and Catholic heritage while gradually adjusting to the life amid a multi-ethnic
population, and at the same time pursuing their professional and social
stature in American society.
During the next forty years the high school's growth was gradual yet consistent.
Even though initially plagued by financial difficulties the school's staff
and the community sacrificed at first to move Holy Trinity in 1912 to an
abandoned elementary school building on the southwest corner of Cleaver
and Division Streets, and finally, in 1928, to erect on that site a three-story
edifice, the present structure at 1443 West Division Street complete with
an auditorium which seated one thousand, a large cafeteria, and a popular
bowling alley which in its day attracted leagues of bowlers from prestigious
downtown corporations but which today serves as the school's art room.
For years to come, the impressive structure would serve both as a Polish
community center and the high school. By 1950, the school served a population
of nearly eight hundred students and held relatively secure at that figure
throughout the decade. At the core, its ethnic heritage remained overwhelmingly
Polish American, though some students of Italian and Irish background were
But the 1960s and 1970s witnessed a dramatic change in the composition
of the student body at Holy Trinity. The original Polish community which
built the school and supported it fully, was dispersing to other neighborhoods
and suburbs and their aging homes were taken over by a new wave of recently-arrived
Hispanics and an influx of blacks from the bursting West Side communities
and from the South.
The Brothers saw the mission of Holy Trinity High School as unchanged in
concept: to continue to train leaders from among its new constituency which
had many of the characteristics of the Poles who proceeded them-hard poverty,
great pride, and the resourcefulness of necessity. The school's commitment
and performance to standards of academic excellence remained intact throughout.
At present, 85% of Holy Trinity graduates go on to college.
Ironically, the year 1960 saw both the peak enrollment at the high school
- 940 --- and a rapid diminishing of the parish rolls at Holy Trinit Church.
It was during
this quandary that all parties concerned with to the high school
entered into negotiations to decide what was best for the interests of the students
and parishioners alike. The result of intense, often anguished and complex
meetings was that the Brothers of Holy Cross assumed sole
ownership of the high school structure and grounds, in accord with contractural
terms delineated by the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Midwest Province of the Brothers
of Holy Cross, and Holy Trinity parish and pastor. The Brothers agreed, in the
uncertainty of those shifting times, to continue to conduct Holy Trinity High
as a Catholic secondary school for boys, with unchanging standards of excellence
and, secondarily, to see that all necessary repairs and remodeling were done
immediately. That last stipulation was more easily negotiated than accomplished.
The Brothers secured two twenty-year loans totaling $325,000, completed the remodeling,
and repaid both loans in 1981.
In 1965, urban renewal became a reality in Trinity's front yard. The City of
Chicago, with help from federal funds, purchased property near the school and
developed what is called Noble Square with its low. income townhouses and a solitary
high-rise apartment dwelling. Similar housing projects sprang up in almost the
entire semi-circular belt surrounding the Loop, This "renewal" forced
the descendants of the original Holy Trinity families to move to other areas.
Many of their homes were simply razed to make way for expressways and housing
for indigents, large-tract affairs such as Noble Square. Other families who could
afford few choices occupied the remaining old homes and the new subsidized housing,
and these families were of course of the minorities, of the poor, upon whom Holy
Trinity's existence was initially predicated. The school had come full circle.
From the initial homogeny of its Polish roots, the school became increasingly
a multi-racial, multi-ethnic institution which necessarily adjusted for cultural
differences and varying needs. Today, 55% of its 550 students are Hispanic, 30%
black, 15% percent Asian or white.
Its tuition remained moderate to make the private schooling option reasonably
affordable to as many young men who would ask to share in its special favors.
Its entrance requirements did not exclude the average or sub-average student,
but encouraged them forward in recognition of the many varieties of intelligence.
Among the 46 faculty members, 22 are Religious of the Congregation of the Holy
Cross or of other teaching Religious Orders. The laymen and women on Holy Trinity's
staff teach out of a profound desire, to give part of themselves to the socially,
economically and often emotionally impoverished youth, to enhance his opportunity
for a fair share, his one and only chance at a unique private and Christian school
education. These exceptional men and women often make a considerable sacrifice
of salary to teach at Holy Trinity.
Holy Trinity's administration and staff have devised and offer three challenging
curricular options: a college preparatory program leading to entrance into the
more selective universities about the country; a general program preparing students
for post-high school academic pursuits in two-year colleges, business institutes,
and similar institutions of higher learning; a
general program preparing students for entrance into technical schools and the
The scheduling is flexible to allow a student to progress in each of the academic
disciplines to the highest level at which he is capable of performing. An extensive
testing program is employed to monitor his progress in order to assure that he
is scheduled into those courses that best challenge his abilities. Through its
persistence in the quest for excellence, Holy Trinity has consistently graduated
young men who have gone on to success in a multitude of professions.
The faculty takes rightful pride in the continued achievements of Holy Trinity
graduates. Many students regularly earn scholarships to colleges and universities.
Equally gratifying to the Holy Trinity staff is the success of those who entered
pre-conditioned to failure in past performance, yet who rose not only to graduate,
but graduate with dignity and honor and certifiable achievement.
It must be here said that a student's tuition does not cover the operational
costs, the day-to-day costs of his education at Holy Trinity. These outstanding
expenses must be met with the help of supplemental income generated through extensive
and exhausting fund-raising activities employed by the Development Office and
from contributions by the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and the Midwest Province
of the Brothers of the Holy Cross. In order to continue offering the quality
education expected by its student members, Holy Trinity must raise additional
monies for a number of vital projects and for the extending of scholarships to
the truly indigent.
Brother John Benesh, C.S.C., is presently principal of Holy Trinity High School.
From "A History of
the Offices, Agencies, and the Institutions Of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1981
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.