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2 Catholic schools granted reprieve from closures

Our Lady Victory school Portage Park neighborhood | Sun-Times files

Our Lady of Victory school in the Portage Park neighborhood | Sun-Times files

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Updated: February 26, 2014 6:19AM

Two of the six Catholic schools the Archdiocese of Chicago recently announced would shutter after this school year were granted a reprieve, officials said Friday.

Our Lady of Victory on the Northwest Side and St. Christopher in Midlothian learned Friday their fund-raising efforts had swayed the Archdiocese, officials said.

Parents at Our Lady of Victory raised over $760,000 in two weeks to keep the school of 171 students open, according to Mary Beth Frystak, a pastoral associate there.

“We had a meeting downtown with [Archdiocese Schools Supt.] Sister Mary Paul this afternoon, and she is very happy with the amount of money that we have raised in such a short amount of time,” Frystak said.

At St. Christopher, a pledge drive raised $1.8 million within a week — commitments over the next five years to keep the school of 215 students open, said its parish pastor, the Rev. Kris Paluch.

“We did it!” said Paluch, proclaiming the news from the pulpit to parents and students at a meeting called Friday. “This has been a journey of prayer, effort and great anticipation. We could not accomplish anything without the support of our community. I did not dream we would be so successful in such a short time.”

Parents were nervous as they filed into the church, but left crying and hugging.

“I’m ecstatic. I’m glad we pulled it off,” parent Jeannie Erffmeyer said.

“St. Christopher, Chapter Two. Here we come,” Principal Maureen Wilson said.

The Archdiocese confirmed the reprieves, adding that a third school, St. Florian Catholic School on the Southeast Side, has been given additional time “to complete their plan for long-range sustainability.”

The schools were among six financially struggling schools targeted for closure. They include the Stewart Avenue campus of the Academy of St. Benedict the African on the South Side; St. Bernadette in Evergreen Park; and Santa Maria del Popolo in Mundelein.

The reprieved schools can now host open houses Sunday for Catholic Schools Week.

“We’re going ahead with our registration,” Frystak said. “From all indications, Sister Mary Paul thinks we’re doing an amazing job. We weren’t giving up. That’s for sure. They don’t call us Our Lady of Victory for nothing.”

These plans, however, have very specific benchmarks that are understood by the schools’ leadership teams.”

The Archdiocese will review the plans of each school that appeals on or before March 1, its officials said.

Twitter: @Maudlynei

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