Notre Dame HS returning to Holy Cross for sponsorship

The Executive Board of Notre Dame Prep High School in Niles recently announced that the school has returned to sponsorship by a religious order after 9 years under lay leadership.

The lay board was formed to assume leadership of the school after the Priests of Holy Cross ended their sponsorship in 2006 after more than 50 years. The transfer of sponsorship was approved by Archbishop Blase Cupich.

From 2006 to 2015 Notre Dame was led by an Association of Christian Faithful, a public juridic person which is a structure in canon law designed to function as religious orders once did in maintaining the Catholicity of an institution or ministry, according to the archdiocese. Anticipated in the Second Vatican Council but rarely implemented until recent times, the structure has been used as a governance option for hospitals, schools and other Catholic institutions, according to the archdiocese.

The association appointed a lay executive board that managed the operations of the school. Under the board’s leadership, the school’s enrollment increased and physical improvements were made to the building. Enrollment at the school, which opened in 1955, is approximately 800.

The association also added one of the first Catholic secondary school programs in the nation for students with mild to moderate cognitive disabilities. It has strengthened it curriculum, and standard test scores have increased, according to the archdiocese.

The priests and brothers of Holy Cross have carried out an educational mission since the association was formed by a French priest, Father Basil Moreau, in 1837. The association operates 17 high schools.

"This is a story of lay people stepping up to hold in trust a fine Catholic institution, nurturing its Catholicity in the Holy Cross tradition and helping it succeed by participating in a vibrant network of Catholic secondary schools," Cupich said in a statement. "The Church continues to benefit from strong lay leadership throughout the archdiocese and I am confident that the Board of Notre Dame College Prep will do everything to secure the school’s future, providing a successful model that can be replicated elsewhere."

"From the first days of lay leadership we have worked to not merely preserve (Notre Dame) but to make it a model of excellence in inclusive Catholic education, and we never lost our devotion to the Holy Cross education mission of educating the heart as well as the mind," executive board chairman Peter Newell said.

"We are delighted to welcome Notre Dame College Prep back to the Holy Cross family of educational ministries," Midwest Province of the Brothers of Holy Cross Provincial Superior Brother Chester Freel said. "It is clear from our visits and review of the school’s programs that they have been guided by the charism of Holy Cross and have remained faithful to our way of educating young people at this critical time in their formation."

"The school welcomed another large freshman class this year," school president Ralph Elwart said. "Our dedication to inclusive education dictates that we make a Notre Dame College Prep education available to as many families as we can. Clearly families are recognizing the value of the education and character formation we offer and we intend to respond with more creative ways to make them available."

The transfer of sponsorship will be celebrated with a mass in January.