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Resurrection High School Celebrating 90th Year

by BRIAN NADIG

During its 90-year history, Resurrection High School has endeavored to adhere to its mission of providing a quality education to girls who will use their talents to improve society as women.

"Our mission statement is very important, and we try to instill that in them," said Sister Marilyn Grabarczyk, a former social studies teacher at the school who continues to volunteer there. Sister Marilyn said that the school's motto of "charity and truth" demonstrates the importance of students and graduates having a positive impact on society.

Sister Mary Loyola Reszka, who is the school's archivist and who once taught in the elementary and high school programs on the campus, said that the variety of career paths chosen by Resurrection's more than 13,000 graduates has helped the school achieve its mission. She said that one recent graduate discovered a virus that was named after her.

"We've produced students in a wide range of areas, including medical, research, technology," Sister Mary Loyola said.

While the all-girls high school opened in 1922, its roots can be traced as far back as 1891, when the Congregation of the Sisters of the Resurrection was founded in Rome by a widow, Celine Borzecka, and her daughter Hedwig, said Resurrection communications coordinator Kathleen Heneghan, who is a graduate of the school. The religious order's first ministry was opening a school for poor girls that still exists, Heneghan said.

The congregation's ministry in Chicago began in 1900, when four of its members started a school for 425 students at Saint Mary of the Angels Parish. "They got there Feb. 2 and by Feb. 25 had the school open," Sister Mary Loyola said. "That's about 100 students per class."

The Sisters of the Resurrection arrived on the Northwest Side in 1912 after Sister Anne Strzelecka purchased more than 42 acres of land along Old Tanner Road, which is now Talcott Avenue. A building which housed both a convent and a school was constructed on the property in 1914, and in the following year Resurrection Academy, a boarding school for girls and an elementary school for boys and girls, opened.

Several additions were made to that building, which is now called the Provincial Home, during the 1920s, and the original 1914 section was rebuilt in 2003-04. The academy stopped enrolling boys in 1922, and its elementary program was discontinued in 1961 because other grade schools served the area, Heneghan said. The boarding school for girls closed in 1954.

The congregation opened Resurrection Medical Center, 7435 W. Talcott Ave., across from the school in 1953. The proximity of the hospital provides students with learning opportunities, Heneghan said.

Meanwhile the high school operated in the convent and school building for 40 years until a larger building was constructed in 1962 at 7500 W. Talcott Ave. A 500-seat auditorium was added to the building in 1962, and an $11-million improvement project brought two science labs, two computer labs, a fitness center and a technology center to the campus in 1998.

Enrollment at the high school peaked at about 1,400 during the mid-1970s, when other area parochial schools also were operating at capacity. During that time, some classes were still being held in the convent, which students used a tunnel to reach.

The school's enrollment now is 650. Several Catholic high schools in the area have become coeducational in recent years due to declining enrollments, but officials at Resurrection are confident that the school will remain an all-girls institution. "We hope to continue as a girls' school," Sister Mary Loyola said. Heneghan said that the school's mission statement has always stressed the "education of women" and that she cannot foresee that ever changing.

As part of the school's anniversary celebration, Resurrection principal and president Lynne Saccaro welcomed students with the following message: "Ninety years of serving God by serving young women . . . how blessed we have been! We continue to be the largest all-girls Catholic high school on the North Side of Chicago whose students represent 57 elementary Catholic, public and private schools.

As a tribute to the school's early history, its annual dinner auction, which will be held on Feb. 25, will have a "Roaring Twenties" theme. Information on the event is available online at www.reshs.org.