Resurrection Prep joins LaSallian school network

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Scott Kier, superintendent of LaSallian education for the Christian Brothers of the Midwest, delivers remarks following Mass at Resurrection College Prep High School, 7500 W. Talcott Ave., on Jan. 24, 2020. The Christian Brothers of the Midwest have assumed sponsorship of Resurrection College Prep. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

When classes started in August at Resurrection College Prep High School, most things looked the same: same uniforms for the students, same school colors, same mascot.

But for the first time in the school’s 98-year history, it is under new sponsorship. The Sisters of the Resurrection, whose convent is next door the all-girls’ school on Talcott Avenue, transferred responsibility for and ownership of the school to the Christian Brothers of the Midwest. It is now a member of the international LaSallian school network.

“Our commitment to truth and charity will remain as it has for 98 years,” said Daniel Zepp, interim president of Resurrection. “The school is now a LaSallian school with a Resurrection heritage.”

LaSallian schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago include De La Salle Institute, San Miguel School and St. Joseph High School, Westchester, all coeducational; and the all-boys St. Patrick High School. Resurrection is believed to be the first all-girls LaSallian school in the world.

Part of the reason for that is historical, said Scott Kier, superintendent of schools for the Christian Brothers’ Midwest District, which includes 23 ministries in seven states.

“Before Vatican II, the brothers could educate boys only,” Kier said. Now, of the 14 high schools in the district, three are all boys, Resurrection is all girls and the rest are co-ed.

In talks with the Sisters of the Resurrection and with archdiocesan officials, the brothers said they have no plans to change Resurrection’s status as an all-girls school.

The Sisters of the Resurrection began looking for a new sponsor for the school five years ago when it became clear to them that the sisters would not be able to maintain responsibility for the school much longer.

The number of Resurrection sisters in Chicago is declining as their average age is rising. There are now 23 members of the community in the Chicago area, according to Sister Virginia Ann Wanzek, the provincial; in 1962, there were more than 230 sisters.

“In many ways, it’s similar to what happened with the hospitals,” Sister Virginian Ann said. The Sisters of the Resurrection founded Resurrection Hospital, now owned by Amita Health, across the street from the high school and the convent.

When Resurrection’s former president, Sister Donna Marie Wolowicki, began looking for potential sponsors, she found many communities were facing the same challenges as the Sisters of the Resurrection. While the Christian Brothers also have had declining vocations, their education ministry has thrived with the participation of laypeople for many years.

“There’s a similarity in terms of charism and ministry, commitment to Catholic high school ministry,” Sister Virginia Ann said. “They are local and national and international. We felt comfortable handing over our ministry into their care.”

“We educate through a different lens of the same charism,” Kier said. “We have been clear that this is a continuation of the work the sisters have been doing for 98 years.”

While such transfers of sponsorship are not common, Kier said they might happen more often, especially as smaller congregations of women religious plan for the schools they founded to live on after them.

Resurrection will benefit from the LaSallian network’s resources and from the approach to education, Zepp and Kier said.

“St. John Baptist de La Salle really focused on innovative teaching practices and working with kids from all walks of life,” Zepp said.

On a practical level, the Sisters of the Resurrection worldwide had four high schools; the Christian Brothers have four in Chicago and more than a dozen in the Midwest, offering educators at Resurrection more resources and a wider network of colleagues to work with, Kier said.

“The sisters were interested in maintaining the mission of the school beyond their time at the school,” Zepp said. “This is about their commitment to the young women that we serve. The Christian Brothers really saw a gift in this school.”

That’s because Resurrection, the largest all girls Catholic high school on the North Side, has maintained steady enrollment of around 460 students for the past five years, and it has strong ties with is alumnae and wider community.

“The strengths of Resurrection would be the young women, the bonds they hold, their commitment to one another, their sisterhood to one another,” Zepp said. “It has a tremendous history, legacy and tradition. The Sisters of the Resurrection have left the school on really solid footing.”

Zepp said his role as president will include increasing outreach both to Resurrection alumnae and the wider community to help increase access to resources and support for Resurrection students.

Sister Virginia Ann said the transfer does not mark the end of the sisters’ involvement at Resurrection. Two sisters continue to work there, and the school is next door to the convent.

“It’s difficult,” she said. “We’re sad about it. But there’s a certain peace knowing that we didn’t have to close to the school.”


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