This is a moment for St. Catherine-St. Lucy Catholic Church and its school.
A historic anchor at Washington and Austin boulevards for both Oak Park and neighboring Austin, this church and school is at a crossroads as the Archdiocese of Chicago figures out how to shrink its footprint while not abandoning or driving off a declining base of members.
SCSL is a unique circumstance. It straddles two communities once profoundly linked but over the past 40-plus years separated in nearly every aspect by fear and race. Its small congregation remains somewhat integrated while the school has long served Black children, mainly from the West Side.
But the future of this weakened-but-still-vital institution will be as part of Oak Park’s soon-to-be realigned, reduced, merged four Catholic parishes. Among the current “scenarios” coming out of the Renew My Church process, we know that only SCSL Church faces possible closure and absorption into another parish. It was also made clear early that the school will survive, although how it might be aligned with another parish — Ascension and St. Giles have elementary schools — is to be determined.
Even as this drama unfolds, we have the joy of watching as St. Catherine-St. Lucy School takes on new and generous allies from Fenwick High School. Alumni donors have raised money to refurbish the gym, create a tutoring center and fund a scholarship program that will welcome SCSL grads to Fenwick.
Joined with the elementary school’s audacious spirit and service over decades, it tells us that, despite an uncertain road, this school will thrive. For that we are grateful.