Chicago Archdiocese breathes new life into Little Village Catholic school

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Archdiocese of Chicago is breathing new life into a school that has been closed since 2005.

On Wednesday morning, the community came together to mark a grand re-opening with a ribbon cutting to celebrate the re-birth of a Catholic school in the Little Village neighborhood.

"What a great thing to see growth, to see life in this community where children are in need," said Monsignor Kenneth Velo, co-chair of the Big Shoulders Fund.

Good Shepherd Catholic School, near 27th and South Kolin avenues, closed 16 years ago due to dwindling enrollment and cost. The building was leased out to a public school, and for the past two years it was empty.

However, that's about to change.

The Archdiocese of Chicago decided back in March that it would consolidate Epiphany Catholic School with Good Shepherd, which is just three blocks away.

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That means Epiphany Principal Scott Ernst will be overseeing his existing pre-school through eighth graders, along with students enrolling at Good Shepherd.

"We've seen an increased need and want for Catholic education, and our classrooms have been filling and parents have been wanting to enroll their students, so we're excited to meet that need by expanding our operation," Ernst said.

Big Shoulders Fund, founded to provide support to inner-city Catholic schools, raised money and committed to the plan.
"I think that this is only the beginning. This is only the start and you'll see more students engage and enroll each year and filling this building," said Joshua Hale, president and CEO of Big Shoulders Fund.

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The ribbon cutting celebration comes as more than a dozen South Side and south suburban Catholic parishes consolidate or close some schools for good.

Good Shepherd alumna Sarah Martinez was thrilled to see her school come back.

"It just gives a new light, a new era, to know that dreams are still possible, that you know you could make things happen even when you don't see it in the future," Martinez said.

Right now, Good Shepherd is enrolling pre-school and kindergarten students for this fall.

But officials said the school will grow in the future, and eventually become pre-school through eighth grade.
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