by Catherine Guiles
Jan 30, 2008

As the Archdiocese of Chicago marks Catholic Schools Week, officials, staff and students say they have a lot to celebrate.

“What we’re seeing is the most stable enrollment we’ve seen in the past seven years,” said Ryan Blackburn, director of school marketing and communications for the archdiocese. The 2007-08 school year was “the first time in 45 years that no elementary schools were closed.”

The Genesis strategic plan, which began in 2005, addresses three issues to keep the system viable: Catholic identity, academic excellence and school vitality.

That plan is “beginning to have an effect,” Blackburn said. “The word from the archdiocese and Cardinal George is that Catholic schools are an important part of the ministry of the Catholic Church.”

Catholic schools in the city had 47,345 students as of 2006-07.

At Alphonsus Academy and Center for the Arts in Lakeview, resource teacher Stephanie Lavia said enrollment and donations have grown.

“I think a lot of it is the increase of families moving to the Lakeview area,” many of whom can afford Catholic education, Lavia said. “They just love the Alphonsus community.”

That includes St. Alphonsus Church next door, where many school families have belonged for generations.

“Not only do they see each other at school, but at Mass,” she said.

The school has 265 students in preschool through eighth grade. It was built in 1903; the parish is 125 years old.

Two fourth-graders said the school is fun and a good place to learn.

Ten-year-old Christian has attended Alphonsus since preschool.

“Everybody I’ve met has been like my family,” Christian said. “I like learning about God and Jesus and Moses and all the important people back then.”

Nikko, also 10, praised the “really nice teachers.”

Like most Alphonsus students, Nikko is Catholic, but “if you’re not Catholic, it’s fine,” he said.

Catholic Schools Week continues through Saturday. Events include open houses, Masses and visits by archdiocesan leaders.

©2001 – 2013 Medill Reports – Chicago, Northwestern University. A publication of the Medill School.