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A look back: Providence High School, Chicago

Sister Joan Kirkpatrick,1967

“Our students were such a joy to teach. They were so loyal and loved our school. They wanted to learn. I remember a year with subzero temperatures and public schools were closed. Our students came to school anyway and were very happy to be there.”

This was recalled by Sister Joan Kirkpatrick as she fondly remembered teaching at Providence High School in Chicago. Sister Joan taught religion, math and science there from 1961-1964.

Providence High School began its story in 1888 as Our Lady of Sorrows School. The school graduated its first two students in 1891. As the school grew, a new building was purchased for the academy. In 1921, the name was changed to Providence High School by Cardinal Mundelein. Further increasing enrollment led to a new building on Central Park Avenue in 1929.

People waiting to enter the new Providence High School, Chicago, for the dedication ceremonies on May 12, 1929.

For the next 48 years, the Sisters of Providence and all the Provites learned, succeeded, built relationships and advanced to the next stages in their lives.

In 1968 due to challenges with enrollment, Providence High School for girls was combined with St. Mel High School for boys and renamed Providence-St. Mel. Later, in 1974, due to financial strain, the sisters leased the building to the Archdiocese of Chicago. The lease expired in 1978 and that fall the school reopened as a private Catholic School. Today, Providence-St. Mel is an independent school for pre-kindergarten to grade 12.

Alumnae of Providence High School have stayed in contact with each other and continued their lifelong journey with the Sisters of Providence over these many years. All these relationships have brought such joy to the sisters. These loyal alums, through the Providence High School Alumnae Association, have donated $50,000 or more each year to support sisters who are retired as they continue their life journey of service. Over the past 34 years, this dedicated group has given more than $1.5 million dollars to the Sisters of Providence. Providence alumnae are a true blessing in the life and mission of the Sisters of Providence!

Sesquicentennial banners hanging in front of Providence High School in 1990.

On Oct. 26, 2019, Providence High School, Chicago will host their final reunion. This will take place at The Diplomat West Banquet Hall, 681 West North Avenue, Elmhurst, Illinois. You can register or learn more by contacting Andrea Pocica at providencealumnae@sbcglobal.net or by voicemail at 708-802-4722. You can also contact the Sisters of Providence Alumnae/i Coordinator Connie Gualano at cgualano@spsmw.org or 812-535-2811.

While this is not the end of our relationship, this is the final official gathering of our Providence High School Alumnae Association.

To all of our Providence High School alumnae, and all our former students: the impact you continue to have on the Sisters of Providence through your letters, phone calls, visits and financial giving is truly a blessing. We invite you and those you love to the Woods anytime to continue your journey with the sisters. If distance keeps you from visiting, call us at 812-535-2800 to ensure you are signed up to receive HOPE magazine and our newsletters.

We hope to see you Oct. 26 at our final ‘official’ gathering of Providence alumnae!

Meeting of administrative officers on Feb. 22, 1963, at Providence High School, Chicago. Seated: Sisters Mary Corona Sullivan and Mother Rose Angela Horan. Standing: Sisters Charolotte Wohleiter, Ann Thomas Hartman, Miriam Gunning, Marie Clarice Toomey, Lucy Yenn, Francis Alma McManus and Marie Loretta Shea.

(Originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Zach Pies

Zach Pies is part of the Mission Advancement team for the Sisters of Providence. He has been coming to the Woods since he was 6 years old. Zach enjoys sharing the stories, mission and ministries of the sisters with our donors and friends.

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