St. Thomas is established as a mission outpost with Father Thomas Kelly, pastor of St. James Church near 29th and Wabash, serving the residents of Hyde Park.
Hyde Park is incorporated as a town.
St. Thomas realizes permanent status as a parish with its first church, a small brown frame structure at the corner of 55th and Kimbark, and Father P.T. Butler as Pastor.
Father W. A. Horan, Pastor, supervises the repositioning of the St. Thomas church structure to face Kimbark Avenue, some distance north of the 55th Street corner, and elevated over a brick basement.
Dominican Sisters from Sinsinawa open the first parish school with Sister M. Gregory as Superior. The St. Thomas Church basement is divided into two classrooms to accommodate St. Thomas the Apostle School’s first students.
St. Thomas the Apostle School enrolls 100 students (40 boys and 60 girls) with Sister M. Edward as Directress and three other Dominican Sisters in residence as teachers.
Hyde Park becomes part of Chicago.
|Guided by Father John J. Carroll, Pastor, a new St. Thomas Church – a solid, relatively spacious brick Victorian Gothic structure with a tall steeple – is built on the corner of Kimbark Avenue and 55th Street. The previous worship space is transformed into a classroom which, along with the two basement rooms, creates a three-room school for St. Thomas the Apostle.|
The University of Chicago opens.
The World’s Columbian Exposition creates and leaves the area with what is now known as the Midway and the Museum of Science and Industry.
Father Thomas Vincent Shannon is named pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Church, beginning his 25 year leadership of the parish and school. Father Shannon would later be referred to as a “great builder.” All of the current St. Thomas the Apostle Parish buildings, with the exception of the convent addition, were constructed under his leadership.
1916 to 1929
Upon examination of the old parish school, Father Shannon found it “far from adequate for the education of children” and arranged for the rental of the Ray School, a public school three blocks away at Kimbark and 57th Street, since it was vacant. He had a great semicircular sign placed over the doorway that read “School of St. Thomas the Apostle.”
When the school opened in September, 486 children were enrolled – a gain of almost 300 from the previous year. The number of Dominican Sisters affiliated with STA increased from six to twelve.
Uniforms were also introduced at the school. Father Shannon felt “…it gave a fine sense of democracy to the youngsters to find that they were all dressed alike, and that no one knew who was poor or who was rich.”
A Convent structure is built behind St. Thomas Church on Kimbark Avenue and 55th Street. This was the first structure built by Fr. Shannon, just four years after he had first arrived.
Barry Bryne (an associate of Frank Lloyd Wright) draws plans for the new St. Thomas the Apostle Church.
Ground is broken for the new church.
St. Thomas the Apostle Church is dedicated and soon acquires notoriety for its art and architecture. The church is now on the National Registry of Historical Places.
The St. Thomas the Apostle Rectory is completed.
The new St. Thomas the Apostle School, on Woodlawn Avenue at 55th Street, is dedicated on October 20, 1929. In addition to the elementary school for boys and girls, it also housed a high school for girls.
Students entered the new building for the first time in September, 1930.
St. Thomas the Apostle School Principal, Sister Joan Smith, and Sister Nona McGreal, First Grade Teacher, go to Washington, D.C. to begin work on The Progressive Program. The “Faith and Freedom” curriculum series was written and implemented by these two Sisters as part of the project and became the standard texts used in diocesan elementary classrooms across the country. Sister Lois, archivist at the Sinsinawa Dominican Motherhouse in Wisconsin, summarized the 1938 notes in the Sinsinawa Dominican Annals, saying “As a result, literally hoards of folks came to St. Thomas the Apostle School to observe and take notes on this teaching strategy of incorporating the concept of social justice.”
Reverend Robert H. Oldershaw organizes the St. Thomas the Apostle Children’s Choir. Fifty girls and boys perform in churches, synagogues, schools, hospitals and convalescent homes and for businessmen’s groups, ladies’ teas, as well as anniversary dinners. Their wide range of music covers “everything from Palestrina to Fiddler on the Roof.”
“Who would imagine…black and white Catholic children singing ‘shtetl’ music in a Jewish Home…this is what will make for peace!” – Convalescent Home Resident
St. Thomas the Apostle Children’s Choir records their second LP recording, “Christmas is for Children” in November. According to Father Oldershaw, “The narration was written by the children with some assistance from St. Luke.” Apparently the entire LP was recorded in one day.
St. Thomas the Apostle High School merges with Visitation, St. Thomas Aquinas and Unity Catholic High Schools and relocates to a central location. The elementary school expands into the high school area of the building, enabling it to offer two classrooms per grade level.
2008 – March
St. Thomas the Apostle School is awarded a $10,000 grant from the University of Chicago and South East Chicago Commission Neighborhood Enhancement Program to begin the development of a Neighborhood Community Reading Garden.
2008 – June
On June 6, 2008, Mr. Michael McCaskey of the Chicago Bears announces that Bears Care, the charitable beneficiary of the Chicago Bears, will serve as the Patron of St. Thomas the Apostle School for three years via the Patrons Program of the Big Shoulders Fund. Bears Care commits $300,000 in financial support to the school and countless hours of volunteer support through the Patron’s Advisory Board. The collaboration enables St. Thomas the Apostle School to begin working with the University of Chicago’s Elementary Math and Science Center to adopt an innovative and top-quality math and science curriculum, as well as expand its arts program.
2008 – June
June 7, 2008 – Principal Dorothy Murphy and the STA Art Committee initiate the “STA Youth & Young Adult Art Fair” mirroring the historical “57th Street Art Fair” on that same summer weekend. Young artists across the city were invited to display and sell their art work on St. Thomas the Apostle School grounds. STA students spent part of their school year learning about creating art portfolios from art teacher, Ms. Betty Sitbon. “The free spirit of children creates some of the most impressive art.”
Chicago Bears Chairman of the Board, Mr. Michael McCaskey, spent the entire day selling his photographic work at the corner of 55th & Woodlawn for the benefit of the St. Thomas the Apostle School’s art department.
On October 1, 2009 St. Thomas the Apostle School dedicated its Neighborhood Community Reading Garden, created through the generosity of the University of Chicago, the South East Chicago Commission Neighborhood Enhancement Program and the St. Thomas the Apostle Community. Located at the northwest corner of the school property on Woodlawn Avenue, the area serves as a “visual oasis of green space in a busy urban setting” and is intended for use by all children and adults in Hyde Park and surrounding areas. Community residents and local schools are invited to use the Reading Garden, which provides teachable moments for art activities, earth science, environmental studies and quiet moments of reflection and prayer and/or just a beautiful place to take a break.
On November 14, 2009 Mayor Daley’s 2009 Landscape Awards Program recognized St. Thomas the Apostle School’s Reading Garden as an area that “makes a substantial and lasting contribution to the well-being of our city…helps beautify your local community and, ultimately, all of Chicago by promoting a more healthy and enjoyable place for our families.” The school was awarded 3rd Place in the Region 4 Schools category.
St. Thomas the Apostle School’s Reading Garden is awarded an Honorable Mention in School, Region Two Category of the 2010 Mayor Daley’s Landscape Award Program on October 7, 2010. St. Thomas was commended on their significant commitment made to “help make Chicago a beautiful place to live.”
2011-12 (125th Anniversary)
St. Thomas the Apostle School observes a year-long celebration of 125 Extraordinary Years of Education featuring several special events including an alumni reception, piano concert, Gospel Choir Reunion Concert and Gala where our beloved Dominican Sisters and Fr. Robert Oldershaw were honored with a certificate of commendation from the National Catholic Education Association for their dedication to Catholic education.
St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, including the school, is named Organization of the Year by the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce.