When Pope Francis Global Academy opened its doors in August, it had a “healthy enrollment” of more than 500 students spread between its two campuses and an enthusiastic core of staff and families, said the principal, Terrence O’Rourke. The school developed as a joint ministry of four parishes, each of whose individual schools came together to form a single entity named after Pope Francis and with an intentional focus on global issues. The sponsoring parishes and founding schools are: Our Lady of Victory, 5212 W. Agatite Ave.; St. Cornelius, 5205 N. Lieb Ave.; St. Pascal, 3935 N. Melvina Ave.; and St. Tarcissus, 6020 W. Ardmore Ave. “The kids are engaged in their classrooms and we’re off to a great start,” O’Rourke said. The school community united Aug. 29 at St. Tarcissus Church for an opening Mass celebrated by Archbishop Cupich, Bishop John Manz, Bishop Francis Kane and priests from each of the four sponsoring parishes. After the Mass ended, all the eighth-graders attended a reception with the archbishop. “That was really special for them,” O’Rourke said. “He gave them a little pep talk about being the leaders of the school.” O’Rourke said the summer and the opening of school were challenging, with a million details to iron out, but being able to take a fresh look at everything meant faculty and administrators could find the best way to move forward without focusing on how one particular school did something in the past. “We looked hard at the curriculum and did some significant positive changes,” he said. “The idea of being a global academy is to look at the school through a global lens, looking at what Pope Francis has been telling us about critical needs in the world and how our kids can become agents of change.” Zain Samuels, a seventh-grader at the North Campus, 6040 W. Ardmore Ave., said he likes the new school. He and his sister, Analiese, a sixth-grader, went to St. Cornelius last year. “I enjoy the teachers, and the students there are really nice,” Zain said. Zain had already moved from Queen of Angels School to St. Cornelius, but he said this move was easier because it was a new school and everybody was meeting new people. “I’d met some of them before, but not really talked to them,” he said. “It’s like everybody’s new.” Their mother, Farzana Samuels, said everyone at the new school has been helpful and happy to answer questions. “Everyone is so nice,” she said. Patty McGuire said she and her husband chose Pope Francis this year after becoming unhappy with the academic work her now-fifth-grader was doing in a public school. “We visited during Catholic Schools Week last year, and you could see the difference in the work at the same grade level, especially in the writing,” said McGuire, who went to Catholic schools herself. The family also includes has a preschooler. Both girls go to the South Campus, 6143 W. Irving Park Road, and the McGuires have taken charge of the school soccer program for fifth- through eighth-graders. “It’s a big time commitment, but everyone has been so supportive,” McGuire said. “And it’s a pleasure to get to know everyone and feel like part of a community.” Amie Zander also has a preschool daughter at the South Campus, which is on the grounds of St. Pascal Parish. Her daughter went to preschool last year at St. Pascal, where she was the only girl among seven students in her class. Now there are two full preschool classes in the building, Zander said. “Suddenly, there are lots of girls,” Zander said. She likes the new sense of enthusiasm and the way it feels to have “more students, more families, more resources, more everything. There’s so much more to get involved in, with sports and a parents’ club. I’m excited for the future. They’re really trying to involve us.” For information about Pope Francis Global Academy, visit www.pfgacademy.org.