Lockport St. Charles Borromeo “Saints”

St. Charles Borromeo
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Photo by Cody Cutter: April 2009

The History of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary High School

Lockport (population: 22,161) is located in northern Will County about 30 miles southwest of downtown Chicago and about seven miles north of Joliet along Illinois Routes 7, 53, and 171. The Des Plaines River also runs thru the community and it is also the headquarters of the Illinois-Michigan Canal, which was built during the 1830’s as the community was an agricultural center where the steel plow was developed.

Lockport was originally established in by a man named Armstead Runyon and was named Runyontown. The name was changed to Lockport around 1837 to reflect the Illinois-Michigan Canal having its first lock there between Chicago and Peru, Illinois.

Over time, Lockport grew as did the grain trade on the canal and became incorporated in 1853. But when the Sanitary and Ship Canal south of Chicago was built in 1895, the grain traffic stopped and bankrupted one of the wealthiest people, Hiram Norton, as his flour mill, hydraulic power plants, and canal boats were rendered useless. The water power may have lived on, but it wasn’t until 1911 when the Calumet-Sag Channel was built north of the city cut off most of the power and any mills that depended on it closed their doors. Lockport then turned its attention to oil refining that same year when the Texas Company (aka Texaco) opened a facility at the northern edge of the city, staying there until the 1980’s.

Lockport was also important as a community whose residents lived there but also worked in Chicago when the Chicago & Alton RR offered daily commuter service, which is still being offered today with Amtrak and Metra.

St. Charles Borromeo was formed in the early 1960’s when Quigley Seminary in downtown Chicago was becoming too crowded. The Diocese of Joliet stepped up and offered to start their own in Lockport, which made sense in light of a number of students who travelled from the Joliet area to Quigley each day.

The school was named for an Italian cardinal and papal secretary-state to his uncle (Pope Pius IV). St. Charles Borromeo was also involved in the Catholic Counter Reformation during the 16th Century. The online edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia has more at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03619a.htm.

The school opened in the fall of 1965 with Rev. (now Bishop) Roger Kaffer as the rector of St. Charles Borromeo. It grew from a two-year high school to a four-year school within two years and graduated its first class by 1969. The school accepted day students as well as boarders, who lived on campus at Lewis College along with the collegiate seminarians.

St. Charles Borromeo never had more than 200 students in its high school, and had far less than that when it closed in 1980.

From Ed Crean, St. Charles Borromeo Class of 1980:

“I was in the final graduating class of St. Charles Borromeo. That year graduated the Senior class and all but one member of the Junior class, who decided to continue in another school.  Most students in the school were not from the Joliet/Lockport area and I don’t know of any students who specifically continued on to Joliet Catholic. In 2013 the former school building and grounds, later the Diocese Pastoral Center, was sold and turned over to Lewis University.”

It is believed that the architect who designed the Borromeo High School building also designed Joliet East and Joliet West High School buildings.


Year opened:                    1965

Year closed:                     1980

Building used today as:      St, Charles Borromeo Pastoral Center

School nickname:              “Saints”

School colors:                   Blue and White

School song:                    “When the Saints Go Marching In”


In researching the school, it is known that St. Charles Borromeo offered basketball, wrestling, and baseball, but no records or names of coaches are known. The school played primarily against Class A size schools, and did not win any IHSA state tournament trophies or plaques. According to this author, the Saints were entered in the state Class A basketball tournament sometime during the late 1970’s, but decided after the regional seeding meeting that they would not be participating in the tournament, and forfeited their first-round game.

It is believed that other activities such as band, chorus, and art were offered to the St. Charles Borromeo student body. If you have any information, please contact us at the addresses listed below.


Basketball was definitely a sport that the Saints competed in. We are searching for team records and coaches names.

1974-75                     Coach Jack Brennan


The boys competed in soccer too. Coaches names and team records are needed.

1974-75                     Coach Rich Binder


From Michael Hemkendreis (Class of 1975):

“You are right, “when the Saints… In”. was the school song and musically inclined students played trombones when it was sung.”


go out to retired Bishop Roger Kaffer, who was the first rector of the school from 1965-70, with SCB alum Dr. Jim Healy (Class of 1975). Ironically, Dr. Healy works in the St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Center building these days as the head of Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Joliet.


We’re always looking for more information about the history of St. Charles Borromeo. Photos, words to the school song, win-loss records of athletic teams along with coaches’ names, memories, and more are needed to chronicle the history of SCB.

Please send your information via email to us at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net or by clicking on this Guest Commentary link. We also accept submissions by mail at:

Illinois High School Glory Days

6439 North Neva

Chicago, IL  60631

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