OLV closed, but school traditions not forgotten




by BRIAN NADIG

A lot of traditions were celebrated for the last time at Our Lady of Victory School during the past year, but school officials hope that students will share their memories of the closed school with future generations.

"Our motto was make sure you take a piece of OLV with you," principal Mary Feeney said. "Keep the ‘Flames’ burning. We made every effort to make sure every ‘last’ was the best we could."

Our Lady of Victory is one of four schools that are merging into the new Pope Francis Global Academy, which will have a north campus at the former Saint Tarcissus School, 6040 W. Ardmore Ave., and a south campus at the former Saint Pascal School, 6143 W. Irving Park Road. The campuses of Our Lady of Victory, 4434 N. Laramie Ave., and Saint Cornelius School, 5252 N. Long Ave., are not being used for the academy.

More than 5,000 graduates of the school and others attended an "Aloha" party in April. "It was just one last chance to come together and enjoy the memories," Feeney, a 1985 OLV graduate, said. "It was a huge showing."

Our Lady of Victory Parish was founded in 1906, and in 1911 the School Sisters of Saint Francis from Milwaukee opened the parish school with a reported enrollment of 200, according to the parish Web site. By 1925 enrollment was 706, and in 1949 a new school building was constructed at a cost of $300,000.

At times, enrollment at the school surpassed 1,000, but like many private schools in the area, Our Lady of Victory struggled in recent years to attract a sufficient number of students. The school had 159 students during the past school year, including eight students in its last graduating class.

Feeney, who worked as an administrator and a history teacher at the school for 20 years, said that some of her fondest memories are to taking students on school trips to Washington, D.C., and Saint Louis and seeing graduates go on to have careers and families.

"I’ve taught the children of my old students," Feeney said. She has accepted the position of assistant principal at the Saint Paul of the Cross School in Park Ridge.

Feeney said that while the school has closed, graduates will continue to evoke the OLV name any time they are asked where they grew up. "There’s just something about North Side parish schools," she said. "It’s a Chicago thing."

In a written statement, the Archdiocese of Chicago said, "The legacy of Our Lady of Victory will live on as one of the four sponsoring communities of the new Pope Francis Global Academy. We are confident Pope Francis Global Academy will continue to transform the lives of students in Chicago."

(Please note: the 1925 class picture is courtesy of the Northwest Chicago Historical Society.)

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