Chicago Heart of Mary High School

 The History of Chicago Heart of Mary High School

Chicago (population 2.8 million) is located in northeastern Illinois in eastern Cook County. Lake Michigan, the Chicago and Illinois Rivers, and the Des Plaines River are the main waterways to and from town. I-90, I-94, I-55, and I-57 will all lead you to the “Windy City.” From what started as a small village in the early 1800s’, Chicago has grown to the nation’s third largest city and one of the most famous places in the world.

Heart of Mary High School opened in 1859 as part of the House of the Good Shepherd, which was a girls’ reformatory for delinquents and penitent students. Four members from the Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd order came to Chicago at the request of Bishop James Duggan in the same year to teach vocational training and work in the home to these students.

The school opened a two-story building in 1866 after starting out as a small school for girls at the grade and high school levels along with vocational training, which was added onto in 1870 with the arrival of the Magdalen Sisters to assist the Good Shepherd order, but the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 wiped everything out. The school relocated to 218 West Green, which became the school’s home until 1905 when construction of the new school was finally begun in the Graceland neighborhood on the city’s North Side. The land, which was a square city block, actually was purchased in 1892, but it took 13 years to begin work on the new building.

A Romanesque chapel was added to the new school in 1926, by which time a two-year commercial school had been opened in 1920. The number of students enrolled was limited due to the transient nature of students that came and left the school, plus the irregular offering of certain courses. The commercial school became a four-year high school in 1940, and continued to have boarding students that stayed for a one-year minimum in order to maintain a consistancy in educating students and offering curriculum.

As of 1952, the principal of the school was a sister of the Good Shepherd order, while the faculty was made up of 10 lay (non-religious) teachers. This arrangement seemed to work better from the standpoint that relations with students and teachers were better, especially with students that were considered rebellious that needed individualized attention. The school changed over time as did the times, and it was decided in 1980 to close the school. The fate of the building is unknown at this time.


Year opened:                                1859

Commercial courses added:         1920

Became 4-yr school:                     1940

Closed:                                          1980

School colors:                                Blue and Gold

School nickname:                          unknown

School song:                                  unknown


Given its history above, we are uncertain as to whether the girls at Heart of Mary had a chance to enjoy activities that gave value to their educational experiences at the school. We invite a graduate or someone who has information on Heart of Mary to contact us and fill the blanks in with more details.


**From former student Michele S.:

My name is Michele and I was a student at Heart of Mary between 1965 and 1968. I read that you didn’t have any info on activities that we were involved in. We did have them and I personally was involved in some. I was on the Volleyball Varsity Team. We went to other schools and they came to us for games. I was a lifeguard, I had to pass tests for Red Cross certifications. Some of us were taken to Lincoln Park and we went canoeing. We had picnics and invited our families. We were taken on outings. I went to a Cubs game with a bunch of other girls and we had a great time.

We had excellent school teachers and the nuns were wonderful with us. We had talent shows and movies in the auditorium and Ethics classes with Mother Divine Heart. We had parties and played softball and even had a Fashion Show where we wore clothing that we made in Home Economics. The older girls were involved in Junior Achievement and made beeswax candles and shower puffs that I remember.

I loved it there. I had a great home and wonderful parents but being at the House was like being at a real long sleepover by your Grandma’s house with all of your friends there with you and lots of extra Grandma’s to teach and take care of you. Our dorm Mothers were just like our own grandmother/aunt, depending on age. They talked with us, watched TV, taught us things and looked after us. I was with Mother Ignatius in Holy Trinity dorm and she was everything you would want in a grandmother. She taught me how to crochet. I loved her. Most of us had jobs/chores to do. I got to work with Mother Liguori in the school store and help clean the Chapel. I loved her too.

Food was good and plentiful and we worked just like we would do at home and went to school and played just like any other kids. The only difference was that we couldn’t run the streets or be with our families every day but we did have visiting days and we could go home on Sunday after a while if we were good. We were on a point/star system and it worked. I wish more kids could have gone there. We didn’t turn out so bad and I will always thank those nuns for that. I’m in my late 50’s now and I still smile when I think of Heart of Mary.”

**From Theresa Haynes:


“I went to Heart Of Mary at house of Good Shepherd from 1975 to 1978…lots of activities. I lived there first year and returned as an outside student for 2 years..rare thing..Thanks for posting this school info..I have been looking.”

**From Sharon Hunt Gonzales (class of 1959):

Hello, I graduated from Heart of Mary High School in 1959. We had a very well-rounded education which mainly geared itself to the development of job skills. We were taught typing, Gregg shorthand, Burroughs Billing Machine, English, Mathematics, History, Civics, and Home Economics. We had swimming (I was there when the pool was built), we had Choral, and traveled all around Chicago singing at functions and events.

“I was proud to be the President of the Senior Class. Our colors were Blue & Gold. First Mother Helene was in charge and I was very close to Mother Ignatius who headed up the kitchen where I worked. I believe she eventually became Mother Superior.”

**From Denise Czarnik Mitchell:

“I attended Heart of Mary High School from Dec.1969 till Feb.1971. I remember activities as swimming, roller skating, movies, and going on many outings. I have many cherished memories of my time there.”

**From Mary Lingle-Wells (class of 1969):

“I was a student at Heart of Mary as well as a resident of the House of the Good Shepherd’s! I am so grateful for the wonderful home they gave me and for all I learned from the Sisters. Mother Helene (Mother Superior) taught religion. Catechism was a daily ritual. Mother Ligouri, who was loving and wise, was my favorite. Sister was my supervisor.

“My primary chore was cleaning the church. We had a beautiful chapel, which must have been a landmark at the time! The facility was demolished soon after I graduated. I believe (the) Wrigley (family, owners of the Chicago Cubs) purchased the property for parking. Mother Ligouri ran the commissary where we purchased our grooming needs, cosmetics, and of course, sweet treats.

“We lived in dorms that included a recreational area and showers. There were 18-20 girls to a dorm. Lots of opportunities for friendship! I would like to say that most of the girls were there because of dysfunctional and frequently violent homes. Many were forced to run away because of the horrific things that were being done to them.

“Our facilities included a full-accredited high school as well as a cosmetology school. We also had a full-service laundry where we laundered and pressed the Sisters’ habits and bedding as well as our uniforms. The gentleman who ran the laundry was named Jim.

“On weekends, we went on outings. Our facility next door was Wrigley Field, who utilized our parking lot for home games and provided tickets to the games for the girls. We were privileged to attend theatre presentations. I remember seeing Davey Jones in “Oliver!” We had a beautiful Olympic-sized pool and gymnasium that we enjoyed on a regular basis.

“I am so happy to find your post. The House of the Good Shepherd filled a need for many young women from Chicago and suburbs. I’m sure that all of the Sisters are in Heaven because of all they gave us!”

from Wendi Bynum (former student, received 3/27/2017):

“Glad to have found this information. I went to Good Shepherd from 1968-71, and it was the best thing that happened to me at that time. I am now 63, and I think back fondly on my time there.

“There were four dorms each, consisting of 18-20 girls. Marion Hall and Holy Trinity was on one side, Sacred Heart and St. Euphrasur was on the other. I was in Sacred Heart.

“I remember the fashion show where the girls made their own clothes to wear. One girl (Rita M.) made the cutest outfit from one of old uniforms. We played on softball teams competing with the other dorms, as well as basketball, badminton, volleyball. We swam, being able to receive lifeguard certification through the Red Cross.

“I talk about my life at Good Shepherd all the time. I have no problem acknowledging that I was not the best person in the world and grateful for Good Shepherd. When I see the person I grew to be, I give some of that credit to good Shepherd. They gave me stability and order.”


If you have information about the school, you have three options.

1) Email us at;

2) Click here to complete a Guest Commentary form; and

3) Send it thru the mail to the address below:

Illinois High School Glory Days

6439 North Neva

Chicago, IL  60631

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