A Letter from Chicago: Service to, and Love for, Catholic Schools Mix with Football
Irish Victory at Soldier Field Follows Signs of Hope for a Garden at St. Ann
This season’s installment in Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series – the annual football home game played at a neutral site – took numerous fans to Chicago last weekend, where the Fighting Irish played the University of Miami. Given that Chicago has the largest concentration of Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) graduates of any city in the country, it was only natural that ACE also went on the road to be among the countless members of the extended Notre Dame family.
The ACE events began with an enjoyable evening at Gibsons Steakhouse on Thursday night. Around 100 people joined in a celebration of Catholic schools while gearing up for Saturday’s big game. There was a strong showing of ACE Advocates from the region—ACE alumni and other members of the movement in support of Catholic schools—along with a number of ACE leaders based at Notre Dame.
Friday brought an exciting opportunity to serve a Chicago-area Catholic school that is thriving in spite of seemingly huge challenges. St. Ann’s School, in Pilsen, is led by principal Benny Morten, a graduate of Notre Dame, ACE’s Service through Teaching, and the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program. Benny is also a recipient of ACE's Michael Pressley Award for Excellence in Catholic Education. Members of the ACE community offered support for the event, which was coordinated by the Notre Dame Alumni Association.
Service projects included some beautification work around the courtyard and playground, building picnic tables, and painting prayer rocks for the prayer garden that will be part of the school’s next big undertaking. The space, which will become the Father Don McNeill Garden, was blessed by St. Ann’s pastor and Chicago Auxiliary Bishop, the Most Rev. Alberto Rojas.
ACE welcomed gameday by hosting one of its largest tailgate parties. A great friend of ACE’s got a few of his buddies together to form a “tailgate committee”, and the product was an amazing time! ACE teachers, ACE graduates, ACE Advocates, parents of current and past ACE teachers, and many other friends and supporters of ACE and Catholic schools dropped by throughout the day
The decisive football victory at Solider Field on Saturday night was a fitting finish to a great weekend. Ultimately, ACE’s joyful participation in the celebration was possible thanks to all of the people who have helped to make Catholic schools such an integral force for good in the United States.
-- From Drew Clary, Assistant Director, Notre Dame's Institute for Educational Initiatives
Photo: Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas blesses the McNeill Garden at Saint Ann's Catholic School, a Chicago-area site where ACE has had a significant presence and where the current principal earned two master's degrees in ACE formation programs for teachers and leaders. The garden is named in honor of Rev. Don McNeill. ACE members were among those providing services at the school on Oct. 5.