Chicago Sacred Heart High School (May Street)

 The History of Chicago Sacred Heart High School (May Street)

(NOTE: not to be confused with Academy of the Sacred Heart or Sacred Heart High School on 18th Street)

Chicago (population: 2.8 million) is located along the shores of Lake Michigan in northeastern Illinois. From its early days as a Potawatomie settlement, then as the site of Fort Dearborn in 1803, which led up to the formation of the city and its incorporation in 1833 and 1837, respectively, the “City of Big Shoulders” became a major location in the US for various reasons. Railroads and water transportation were two reasons why Chicago was one of the fastest growing cities in the country during the 19th Century.

Today, numerous railroads and highways of interstate, US, state, and local designations bring people together in the city on a daily basis, as does air traffic at O’Hare and Midway Airports. Chicago is a melting pot of people from many nationalities, making it ethnically diverse, and thus is referred to as “the financial, economic, and cultural capital of the Midwest (according to Wikipedia).”

Sacred Heart High School was opened by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate of Joliet in 1920 as an extension of a parish grade school and as a co-ed two-year commercial school in the Englewood neighborhood at 70th and May. A new facility was open in 1927, then the school went all-girls’ in the fall of 1944 and also changed to a four-year course of study.

The school was small in enrollment during its lifetime, peaking around 160 students in the mid-1950’s/early-1960’s. An addition with classrooms, library, labs, and multi-purpose room was built in 1961, which was around the time that the racial makeup of the neighborhood changed from Caucasian to African-American.

By 1964-65, enrollment was down to 133 students and the Franciscan order was considering their options to whether or not they would keep the school open. It was decided that the class of 1967 would be the final one to graduate from the school, while remaining students would be placed in other Catholic schools. The school building itself was turned back over to the parish for use as a grade school.

Low enrollment, inadequate spaces and facilities, along with dropout and mortality rates, were the reasons given for closing the school.


Year opened:                    1920

New building opened:       1927

Year it became all-girls’:   1944

Addition built:                    1961

Year closed:                     1967

School colors:                   Burgundy & White

School nickname:             unknown

School song:                     unknown


We are unaware that there were any extra-curricular activities for the students at Sacred Heart on May Street, although it may be easy to imagine that they enjoyed intramural sports and GAA, plays, music, dances, and other things to round out their high school careers. We are curious as to what the students did to stay involved at the school.


**From Maureen (Carey) Hanson (Class of 1961):

“I am a proud graduate of Sacred Heart – 70th & May Streets. I graduated from grammar school in 1957 and SHHS in 1961. We are a proud and loyal group from the greatest parish on the south side of Chicago. We meet every couple of years for a celebration of the wonderful years and childhood we all shared or, as we have come to believe, “a time and place unmatched by any other.” This is the message on a remembrance card from a previous gathering.

To start off, the school colors for the high school were burgundy, trimmed in white. I still have my high school sweater. I don’t remember a mascot. Our school paper was ‘The Maroon’ and I believe that it was published monthly. Per my copy of ‘The Maroon’ for June 1, 1961, thirty nine seniors were to receive their diplomas at 4:00 p.m. in Church with Father Reuter, the parish pastor, presiding. Our yearbook was The Thesaurus.

During our four years in high school at SHHS, we had many activities from academics to the arts to sports. We enjoyed plays, fashion shows and music festivals. In sports we participated in intramural volleyball and basketball, as well as the C.Y.O. girls’ high school volleyball tournament each year. On the religious side, we had the Legion of Mary, May Crowning each Spring and dramatic ceremonies as a part of the liturgical calendar. Each year we participated in, or endured, a silent retreat. We usually enjoyed our juke box in the gym at lunch time every day except for Lent when the music was silent. As I recall, we usually had volleyball games between the different classes during Lent.

I believe that Sister Frances DeSales was the principal the whole time I was in high school. When I graduated from grammar school on June 13, 1957, Sister DeSales was also the principal of the grammar school and, at that time, Msgr. Harry Koenig was the pastor of the parish. I also have a tuition envelope from 1953-54 and the monthly stipend was $1.25 per month and $2.50 in May. This is a little information about this wonderful parish school. I hope that it is helpful in your research.

Our gatherings are well-attended by many of the former parishioners as they reconnect with old friends and neighbors. We have had overflow crowds each time. You are probably aware that the Church was torn down several years ago and, I believe, that the school and convent remain. One of the most treasured door prizes at the gathering is always a brick from the Church. I hope that this info gives you a sampling of the reverence and love we all have for this wonderful parish and school of our younger days.”

**From Cathy Kent:

“Hi, I was enrolled at Sacred Heart in the 50’s. My parents moved because of the changing of the neighborhood in the early 60’s and relocated in the suburbs. I do have some class pictures that I can make copies of to send to you. In fact, I am in touch with Father Ken Fleck, who is pastor of St. George’s Church in Tinley Park, IL.

“I was wondering when the next get together will be for Sacred Heart School. I believe that Father Fleck has attended the gatherings. My mother, her sister and brothers also went to the school back in the 30’s. Please send me any information you might have of the class that would have graduated from grade school in ‘1963. Thank you, Cathy Kent (Mary C. Sukis)

From Jack Manning:

“My name is John (Jack) Manning. I lived at 71st and Elizabeth and graduated from Leo High School in 1947. My family attended Sacred Heart Church and I dated several young ladies from Sacred Heart High School.

“In the mid-1940’s, a priest friend of my family (Fr. Guirsh?) was having dinner with my family and asked me what he could do to attract more young people to the church. I suggested he convert the high school auditorium to a basketball court. The court should run parallel to the state and doors to avoid the large pillars in the room.

“Fr. Guirsh did this and it attracted many young people to the gym. I played, coached, and officiated in tournaments. I played CYO basketball for Sacred Heart at St. Sabina’s.

“I got interested in what’s happened to my South Side, hearing that Visitation High School also closed. I’m checking on (Vice President) Mike Pence’s family. whose father also graduated from Leo HS…his mother graduated from Visitation HS in 1950.

“Sacred Heart CYO has an All-American NBA star (Johhny “Red” Kerr) in the Hall of Fame. He was very tall when he was 12-13 years old, and believe he attended Tilden Tech. I live in Tampa, Florida…left Chicago in 1950 for the US Navy. This is FYI, but getting the gym (at Sacred Heart) is something I’ve very proud of.”

from Patrick Sullivan:

“In 1956 and 1957, Miss Joan Halper was my 3rd grade teacher. One Monday, we came into class and there was a large piece of lumber in one aisle, probably 6′ by 6′ and painted white. We were told that Miss Halper’s (I think brother) played football for Notre Dame and they won the game, and it was a custom in those days, they tore down the goal posts. Somehow, it ended up in our classroom and we were told we were going to bring down some 8th graders with hatchets to make souvenirs for all the classes.

“A few years ago while I was at Mass in Palos Hills, the priest mentioned that Alma Koerner would be bringing up the gifts. I met her after Mass and asked if she had taught at Sacred Heart. She said yes and told me that Joan Halper lived nearby. Miss Halper and I got together and I took her to dinner, where we had a wonderful conversation. She was happy to hear that I remembered her and appreciated the great education I received.

“She has a friend that has copies of the 60th Anniversary Booklet covering the years 1894-1954. There are 45 pages with many photos of the buildings, church interiors over the years, and photos of many priests and nuns. She also let me borrow the Golden Jubilee booklet which covers 1894-1944, showing several classmate photos from the “gay nineties,” as the school titled them.

“Another memory was in 2nd grade. I think we were preparing to make our First Communion and Sister Wlfreda wanted all of us to be seated in rows of desks. We were assigned to specific seats and I sat down in the wrong seat, second seat instead of first. Sister Wilfreda picked me up by my hair from the second seat and moved me to the first seat. Not a great memory, but a lasting memory. I don’t hold a grudge.

“I remember a nun, I think her name was Sister Pascal. She was Irish and if she disagreed with something you said, with a smile she would say “That’s as bad as knocking the “L” out of Kelly.” That was a surprise.

“I have seven report cards from Sacred Heart with the photo of Nicholas W. Loschetter on the envelope. He owns the Heinen and Loschetter Funeral Home at 70th and Racine. They must have been good supporters of our school. Also mentioned was Marcella Heinen Loschetter, the firm’s beautician since 1929.”

“Finally, Miss McDonnell was the most beautiful teacher I ever had.”


about the history of Sacred Heart High School on May Street in Chicago? If so, here’s your chance to let us know. We enjoy hearing about the school history, activities, memories created, and photos of the school. Please send them to us at or thru the mail at:

Illinois High School Glory Days

6439 North Neva

Chicago, IL  60631

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