Inspired by our faith, Our Lady of Charity School provides the intellectual and moral foundation for children to become saints and scholars, disciples of Christ and leaders in the community. With enlightened minds and zealous hearts, we will change the world.
As a Catholic school, liturgy and sacraments are an integral part of our day. All-school Masses are celebrated at 1:00 p.m. on Thursdays and parents are always welcome to meet us in the church. All grades begin and end the day with prayer, and we pray before lunch. Special liturgies are attended at various times during the school year. First Reconciliation and First Communion are normally celebrated in second grade, or by special arrangement. Sixth graders complete their sacrament of confirmation. Class retreats and religion classes prepare our students for the sacraments. Students also take part in Catholic traditions such as praying the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, Adoration, commemorating Catholic feast days such as Our Lady of Guadalupe, and May Crowning.
In the 1940s during World War II, the factories in Cicero were running at full production. At this time many Catholic families began to build homes in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood, in the southern section of town. This is the newest area of Cicero and is named for Austin Boulevard. This area south of the Illinois Central railroad tracks area had been a collection of small vegetable farms until the streets were laid out. Rev. Edmund H. Long, the pastor of St. Dionysius Church, formerly located at 49th Avenue and 29th Street, foresaw the need for a Catholic church to serve Boulevard Manor. In 1943 he established a mission church in the area, and Mass was celebrated on Sundays at Lincoln School on 61st Avenue.
In August of 1945 Father Long directed the construction of a combination church-school building at 3620 S. 57th Court. This was not an easy task as very little building was being done during the War, and building supplies were extremely difficult to obtain. The two story structure (our current church and hall) contained a large multi-purpose church/gymnasium upstairs and eight classrooms downstairs. Our Lady of Charity School opened on November 19, 1945. There were initially 108 students in the basement of the current church, with coal stoves heating the space for the first few months. The first principal was Sister M. Romula, and there were four teachers, one lay and three religious. Classes were divided from one another by movable curtains. The gym upstairs (our current sanctuary) was used as a combination gymnasium and church for community athletic events, including wrestling matches and even a live circus! This building was dedicated by Samuel Cardinal Stritch on June 23, 1946, and named Our Lady of Charity Mission. Father Long and the nuns of St. Dionysius served both schools and both churches.
Our Lady of Charity Church prior to the 1954 construction of the school building
In 1954 the Mission was raised to the status of a Parish and the present school building was constructed. The pastor, Rev. Maurice B. Kennedy, renovated the gymnasium into a dignified church and oversaw the construction of the present seventeen classroom school, along with a penthouse convent and a new rectory. Classrooms were equipped to educate fifty students each. The kindergarten room was equipped with a door accessing the outside and scaled down bathrooms for the children’s size. The buildings were awarded a citation for architectural excellence by the American Institute of Architects. By September 1954, the school enrollment was 642 students. The teaching staff consisted of sixteen teachers. Ten were sisters and six were lay teachers.
The school reached its peak in 1959 with 899 students. Later Rev. Kennedy added the current parking lot with a three hundred car capacity. Our Lady of Charity and St. Dionysius continued to maintain close ties over the years. In 1990 St. Dionysius was closed, but the bell that hung outside in front of the 1963 church building was gifted to its sister parish, Our Lady of Charity, in 1991. This bell can be seen in the lobby of the school today.
Due to the school’s proximity to Midway Airport, the City of Chicago funded a noise abatement renovation at the school in 2007. Berglund Construction of Chicago installed a new curtain wall, new windows, a new boiler, and central air conditioning. Millwork and landscaping were also included. This modernization was truly a blessing and has prepared our school to serve our young people for many years to come!
Reference: St. Dionysius centennial book (1989)