1922, the debt on St. Jerome Church was paid. A larger church
on 28th and Princeton Ave. was purchased. The parish was growing
and its pastor, Fr.Vjenceslav Vukonic O.F.M., saw the need for
a parish school. The newly arrived Croatian immigrants had been
strong advocates of a parish school; the school was the means
by which the Catholic faith and Croatian language and culture
could be preserved.
Adorers of the Blood of Christ were called to work among the
Schools in America. In 1906, Bosnian Adorers and Croatian immigrants
were brought together by Divine Providence. These sisters arrived
from the Banja Luka province and later established a province
in Columbia, Pa. This province would supply the teaching sisters
for many Croatian schools. Sisters were vital to the ethnic parishes:
cultural transmission was indangered without schools.
the summer of 1922, the sisters arrived to teach in St. Jerome's
School. This was a great day for Sister Xavier, Aloysia and Mary
Benedict. Sr. Aloysia was chosen for domestic work. Sr. Benedict
was to teach grades 1 and 2. Sr. Xavier was to teach grades 3
and 4. Sr. Benedict recalled grades 1 and 2 numbering 102 children.
The school opened with over 200 students. By 1924, because of
the large enrollment, four more classrooms were added to the school.
The first graduation at St. Jerome took place in 1927 with 13
the worst years of the depression, (1930's) with a 90% unemployment
rate at St. Jerome's, the parish struggled to keep the school
open. The sisters, while teaching, attended night school at DePaul
University. They also took care of the choir, sacristy, altar
boys and children's societies. For some sisters it took as long
as 20 years to earn their degree. The sisters, so in tune with
the needs of their people, published in 1929 the first Croatian
hymnal (Kralju Vijekova) in America. This hymnal is still used
today in many Croatian parishes.
early Croatian immigrants loved the sisters and wanted their daughters
to enter the community, believing they would be serving God and
helping their own people. The work of the sisters was blessed
because a number of girls from the parish entered their order:
Sr. Martha Vuco, Sr. Geraldine Gusich, Sr. Eugene Bojich, Sr.
Imelda Velcich, Sr. Loretta Bozich, Sr. Irene Jelacich, Sr. Beata
Sablich, and Sr. Bernadine Condich.
the years the school continued to grow. A kindergarten was added.
The number of children enrolled in the school varied through the
years. The largest enrollment was during the 1953-54 school year,
with 583 children. The largest graduation class was in 1956, with
73 graduates. The number of students who graduated from St. Jerome
School, since 1927, is over 2200. The forties and fifties were
truly the golden age of Catholic education. The keynote of the
postwar era was "Catholic Schools for Catholic Children."
from teaching the 3R's, the school kept alive the Croatian Heritage
of the parish. Croatian language and culture were part of everyday
curriculum. Students were taught to read, write, pray and sing
in Croatian. The Croatian Primer (Citanka) was a necessary book
for all students. By the late 1950's, the Croatian language was
dropped from the curriculum. Still, the singing of patriotic and
religious Croatian songs remained. For years, students represented
Croatia in song and dance at the Museum of Science and Industry
for the "Christmas Around the World" exhibition.
many years it was quite evident that the old school had served
its purpose. It became inadequate, obsolete and dangerous for
the students. A new school had to be built as the best answer
for the future welfare of the parish and its children. In May
1960, permission was given to Fr. Vitomir Naletelic to build a
new school. Fox and Fox were chosen as architects. Plans were
drawn. The school was to stand in place of the old parish hall.
Ground-breaking ceremonies were held on September 18, 1960. Construction
was begun. The new school was completed in May of 1961. The new
school contained a parish social center. On September 24, 1961,
His Eminence Albert Cardinal Meyer blessed the new school. In
1975, the social center was enlarged and a modern new kitchen
was added to the building.
year of 1998, saw St. Jerome's School celebrating its Diamond
Jubilee. It is a culmination of seventy-five years of extremely
hard work, dedication and sacrifice. The school is a monument
to the parishioners and alumni who sacrificed energy and money
for the love of St. Jerome. The 1998 school reunion drew over
750 alumni attesting to their dedication and love for St. Jerome.
Proud is St. Jerome of its alumni who have filled many important
stations in life. Numerous religious, doctors, lawyers, architects
and public servants have passed through its doors. Among today's
most notable are: Il. State Supreme Court Justice Michael A. Blandic
and Niles, Il. Mayor Nicholas Blase. Many second and third generation
students are now attending St. Jerome.
the school is a modern building with eight classrooms, a computer
room, a kindergarten and a preschool. Three great factors contribute
to the success of St. Jerome: 1) the zeal of the hierarchy in
Chicago; 2) the willingness and sacrifices of the clergy, religious
and lay teachers; 3) the charity and work of the parishioners.
The elementary school remains a vital part of the parish.
for the future includes:
wiring of every classroom including preschool
partnership programs developed with local high schools and universities
enabling students to participate in accelerated classes.
of student clubs such us the Mathletes and National Student
Council and National Honor Society to promote student leadership.
the athletic program to include gymnastics and swimming
of a summer school program for enrichment
the study of languages: Italian, Croatian, Spanish, and Chinese.