South Side Irish Parade honoring Catholic school teachers

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Meghan Coleman, a third grade teacher at St. Cajetan, speaks during a Feb. 11, 2020, announcement at St. Cajetan School that the South Side Irish Parade Committee named principals, teachers and staff from 16 Catholic schools in the community as grand marshals for this year’s parade. School principals, teachers and staff from each school will lead the parade on March 15. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

This year, when thousands of people gather on the South Side for the annual Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 15, they will be greeted by not just one grand marshal but 16. That’s because this year, grand marshals are all of the teachers, principals and staff from the area’s 16 Catholic schools.

The South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee revealed the unique choice during a press conference at St. Cajetan School, 2447 W. 112th St., on Feb. 10. The theme for the parade will be “Thankful for Catholic Elementary School Teachers.”

A committee member proposed the idea and the whole group accepted it unanimously, said parade committee co-chair Jim Smith.

The schools are: Christ the King; Most Holy Redeemer, Evergreen Park; Queen of Martyrs, Evergreen Park; St. Barnabas; St. Bede the Venerable; St. Benedict, Blue Island; St. Cajetan; St. Catherine of Alexandria, Oak Lawn; St. Christina; St. Ethelreda; St. Gerald, Oak Lawn; St. Germaine, Oak Lawn; St. John Fisher; St. Linus, Oak Lawn; St. Margaret of Scotland; and St. Walter.

A representative from each school will help cut the ribbon to start the parade and representatives from each school will carry a banner naming them grand marshals. Many of the schools already take part in the parade each year and have their own floats, but this year more teachers are expected to participate.

The wider Catholic community is very involved in the parade each year and a Mass at St. Cajetan the morning of the parade serves as an unofficial start, Smith said.

“We’re really super excited,” Smith said. “I think it’s going to be great, not only for the teachers but for the neighborhoods in showcasing the teachers’ sacrifices and what they are doing every day.”

News of the grand marshal honor has been met with joy and excitement in the schools.

“When I first heard the news I was beaming. I couldn’t help but feel overjoyed for our teachers who work tirelessly with their students. It is not often that educators are recognized on such a public platform so this is truly an honor we do not take for granted,” said Michelle Nitsche, principal of St. Cajetan School.

A large number of teachers, staff and their families will walk in this year’s parade, she said.

“My staff felt blessed to receive this recognition, especially since they work in the very parish where the parade was founded 42 years ago,” Nitsche said. “Catholic schools are an extension of strong, vibrant communities that are very proud of their South Side roots.”

St. Cajetan teachers don’t reserve their time with students just to the classroom. They are often found at events after school and on weekends supporting their students, she said.

“The bond these teachers have with our students and families is undeniable, and that’s a big part of what makes us so successful as a school.”

Teachers and staff at St. Gerald School in Oak Lawn are gearing up for the event, according to principal Al Theis.

“They are really excited. They enjoy the fact that we’ll have representation there,” he said. “We have a large float and contingent in the parade every year.”

It’s an honor for schools to be recognized, he said.

“The Catholic schools are one of the pillars of the community they serve, that’s for sure. They tend to be a center of so much development of not just kids, but of families,” Theis said. “Both the parish and school because schools really are a ministry of the parish.”




  • catholic schools
  • st patricks day

Related Articles