Several months ago we introduced our year-long reNew theme along with the saying, “We are in this together.” We have invoked this saying many times over the last several months when we introduced Fr. Rich to our community, prayed about the natural disasters taking place in the United States, and rallied together to help each other in many small and not so small ways. While this saying resonates with me every time I hear it, I have never felt its meaning more personally than I did this past week.
I cannot begin to thank all of the members of the Holy Family Community, of parishioners, ministries, and parish and Academy staff for the support you gave me and my family as we mourn the loss of my mom, Pat. It was so wonderful to hear my friends and family mention how welcomed they felt at Holy Family. The emotional support and prayers shared with me during this difficult time has been a tremendous blessing. My mother was a woman of great faith and gratitude. Please accept my heartfelt gratitude for being a powerful witness to me on what it means when we say “We are all in this together.”
This week, Holy Family Catholic Academy received some very exciting news. On Thursday afternoon, the US Department of Education announced the annual winners of the National Blue Ribbon Program. We are proud to share that our parish school was named as a 2017 Blue Ribbon School. While up to 420 elementary, middle and high schools are nominated by the top education officials from all states, there are only 50 private schools in the nation that annually receive a Blue Ribbon. This award designates HFCA as an Exemplary High Performing School for teaching and learning as measured by nationally normed tests. Students in grades 3-8 take the ACT ASPIRE test. These standardized test results are clear confirmation that HFCA’s innovative approach to learning produces a superior outcome as measured on a national basis.
I am particularly happy that the Blue Ribbon Award was announced in the beginning of the school year. This is a wonderful way to kick-off HFCA’s year-long celebration of the 15th anniversary of their founding. Many of you may not know that our parish school began in 2002 as the first new Catholic School in the northwest suburbs in more than 35 years. Using a “grow-a-school” model, the Academy opened with only 29 students enrolled in kindergarten and first grade and added a new grade each subsequent year. The growth of the Academy has clearly been a journey of faith with enrollment today at almost 500 students in 2-year-old preschool through grade 8.
This growth could not be accomplished without the amazing leadership of Principal Kate O’Brien, and former principals, Dr. Gretchen Ludwig and Mrs. Jean Noble, and founding teachers Mrs. Cheryl Russo and Mrs. Jeanne Henry, who recently passed away (see the Academy’s page which is a tribute to Jeanne). Kate, together with Assistant Principal Laura Clark, and their amazingly talented and devoted faculty and staff continually embrace a culture of continuous improvement which has become a hallmark of HFCA.
Later this falI HFCA will also complete the candidacy phase and apply for authorization as an International Baccalaureate World School, the first school in the Archdiocese of Chicago to become a Candidate* in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme. While the Blue Ribbon Award measures achievement, becoming an IB World School provides a framework which gives our teachers access to world-wide best practices in education. The mission of IB is aligned with our parish mission of lifelong learning and the Academy’s mission to develop global thinkers, leaders, grounded in faith. Also this year, the Academy will be seeking STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) accreditation for our middle school from AdvancED. As far as we know, HFCA will be first Illinois middle school to apply for this designation from AdvancED.
While we are all proud of the academic achievement of our parish school, the thing that we never lose sight of is that first and foremost, HFCA provides a faith-based education. Faith provides our students with a foundation for spiritual growth, moral decision making and service to others. As “thinkers, leaders grounded in faith” students learn that we are all called, no matter our age, to learn about important issues, seek to affect change, and respond to people in need by being the hands and feet of Jesus. Those attending this week’s 9:00 mass witnessed the Academy’s annual kNOw Hunger Campaign. This year our students joined with the over 200 schools in the Archdiocese in the Soup-er Stadium Challenge and worked to collect enough food to fill every seat in Soldier Field twice! To date, HFCA’s students and families have collected an estimated 20,000 pounds of food donated to Catholic Charities and other food pantries in the area.
Finally, I would also like to congratulate all the people who helped make this year’s Hops on the Vine and Fall Fest a success. Despite the record heat, everyone had a great time! Special thanks to chairs, Dean Dalaly and Joe Ferlita along with scores of volunteers. Please support the local businesses who worked hand-in-hand with us to provide a wonderful experience for all who attended: Garfield’s Beverage Warehouse, Kinfork BBQ & Tap, Peggy Kinnane’s, Brandt’s of Palatine, Chicago Culinary Kitchen, Hachi Japanese Grill & Sushi, The Seville, Gianni’s Café, Agio Italian Bistro, and Sir Nick’s.
*Candidacy is not a guarantee of authorization.