HISTORY OF ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS PARISH SCHOOL
As we enter into our 50th year of Catholic education at St. John of the Cross Parish School (SJCPS), we realize how blessed we are for our Catholic identity, our faith filled environment, and our academic excellence. It all began on September 6, 1961 when six sisters from the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM) and eleven lay teachers opened the school’s doors for the first time. 592 eager children entered the building in grades 1-8. Class sizes ranged from 24-44 children in a classroom. Approximately 325 students were transported daily to and from school on four school owned buses, driven by the teachers. The parish realized the need to expand and created the school’s first addition in 1964. Kindergarten was added.
St. John of the Cross Parish School has always been supported by the parish both spiritually and financially. The parish realized very early that it was fortunate with the outstanding caliber of teachers, even though they earned only $3500.00 a year as a starting lay teacher. Both the sisters and lay staff realized their ministry to Catholic education and to the children of the community. Father Bennett, the founding Pastor, did not want division between the lay and religious staff; therefore, he provided a hot lunch for all staff daily.
The school continued to grow through the late 1960s and 1970s. At this time, the Archdiocese of Chicago approved the school’s participation in a program called Operation Hospitality. A percentage of children from Chicago were bused into St. John of the Cross Parish School each day. The school year 1966-1967, SJCPS reached its peak of enrollment at 1000 students. The largest graduating class occurred in 1975 with 136 students.
During the early years, the present location of our Early Childhood Program was actually the church. Liturgies took place twice daily. Father Bennett stood at the church door, assuring that the girls were wearing their chapel veils. When the church was built in 1976, the space was then utilized as the school library. Until the rectory was built, the priests resided in the present offices on the second floor.
In terms of our Fine Arts Program, our art teacher travelled on a cart from classroom to classroom. Girls and boys were separated when it came time for gym. We had only one gym. There was no computer lab. Students ate lunch in the classroom. Things began to change again with the second school addition in 1992. The computer lab and art room were built.
St. John of the Cross Parish School continued to thrive and the parish decided to create a final addition in 2002. The Learning Resource Center (LRC), Hynes Hall (Multi Purpose Room), and a few more classrooms were added. The library moved into the LRC and our Early Childhood Program now resides in the area they presently occupy. Our Youth Catechesis Program, always a part of the school, now occupies the space that once served the Early Childhood Program.
Through all these changes, St. John of the Cross Parish School has maintained a strong Catholic identity and educated many students with excellent academic programs. We are one of the larger Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago today. We continue to carry out the mission begun by our predecessors.