Word One

Viva La Escuela

Students from Our Lady of Guadalupe
School are benefiting from a grant
from the Big Shoulders Fund.

When the school at the Claretian parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Chicago recently found itself struggling financially, the larger community rallied to provide assistance in the form of a $200,000 grant from the Big Shoulders Fund.

That's enough to underwrite another year of operation while the school seeks other gifts and higher enrollment.

The Fund is a group of Chicago business, professional, and financial leaders focusing on aiding inner-city Catholic schools. Its name recalls a line from the Carl Sandburg poem, Chicago, "city of the big shoulders."

Operated by the Claretians since 1947, Our Lady of Guadalupe School is credited with playing a vital role at the heart of Southeast Chicago's large Mexican-American community. The parish itself was the first in the Midwest catering to Mexican-Americans.

Bilingual teachers have helped thousands of children from Spanish-speaking homes learn English and adapt to American life.

In 1999, when the parish celebrated its 75th anniversary, one parishioner recalled that her mother's family first came to a Chicago boarding house after fleeing the revolution in Mexico. The next morning they attended church at Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported: "The parish priest immediately set out to find more appropriate housing. That sort of helping hand from the church has nurtured a loyalty that continued through the generations."

Even so, many of the good jobs in the area have been lost with the closing of the nearby steel mills and school enrollment has dropped by about 100 students over the past 10 years.

This article appeared in the October 2006 (Volume 34, Number 4) issue of Word One.

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