School and Church History
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 Austin Boulevard. This area south of the Illinois Central railroad tracks 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 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 churches.
Our Lady of Charity Church prior to the 1954 construction of the school building
In 1954, the Missions 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 building was 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 maintained close ties over the years. In 1990 St. Dionysius was closed, but the bell that hung outside in front of the 1963 church 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 eh 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!