St. Laurence studies options that might save Queen of Peace

  • Written by Tim Hadac

With the clock running down in what has been announced as Queen of Peace High School’s last year ever, a last-minute solution may possibly be coming from no further than next door.

St. Laurence High School, Peace’s “brother” school located immediately west at 5556 W. 77th St. in Burbank, is quietly surveying thousands of its alumni and presenting four options relating to possible responses to Queen of Peace’s predicament:

• Remain an all-boys school.

• Assist current Queen of Peace students, bringing in only current freshmen, sophomores and juniors from Queen of Peace, so that they can finish high school and graduate together. The girls would take their own classes, separate from the boys but in the St. Laurence building.

• Implement a “hybrid” model that would bring in current freshmen, sophomores and juniors from Queen of Peace, who would finish their classes separately from boys in those grades; and at the same time begin a transition toward becoming a fully co-ed school with next year's freshmen class (which could include girls who tested at Queen of Peace this year and are still interested in attending St. Laurence).

• Simply go co-ed, starting in the fall of this year.

In its email to alumni — as well as others in the St. Laurence and Queen of Peace community -- St. Laurence High School President Joseph Martinez, himself a 1999 graduate, said the four options — not the only ones possible -- were put together after top-level discussions with Queen of Peace administrators.

Queen of Peace officials declined to comment on the survey this week, and Martinez offered a general statement that said, in part, “Result and response numbers are only being shared with our Board members right now, who will decide how information will be shared. The results of the survey will be a part of the Board's decision. Our timeline is fluid - we want to do it in a timely manner to respect families from Queen of Peace, but we also need to give everyone's input proper consideration."

“This is a delicate dance, and neither side wants to step on the other’s toes,” said one source who asked to remain unnamed. “The whole future of Queen of Peace will hinge on decisions made in the next couple of weeks. This is a sensitive time, a tense time, a make-it-or-break-it time.”

Graduates of both schools, as well as mothers, fathers and even grandparents showed no such shyness about getting out on the dance floor, so to speak, as they registered their opinions on Facebook and other social media sites—as well as at local gathering spots.

“As depressing as [the news of Peace’s shutdown] has been, for us to suddenly see a ray of hope coming from St. Laurence is like the clouds clearing and the sun shining through,” said Chicago resident Michelle Garcia, an aunt of a currently enrolled Peace girl. “My niece loves her school and is dreading going anywhere else. It’s a very stressful situation that we’re hoping St. Laurence erases with a simple decision.”

Burbank resident Steve Fernandez, like many in the community, pointed to Marist High School, 4200 W. 115th St., Chicago, as a model of how a Catholic high school can successfully transition from all-boys to co-educational. Marist made the change about 15 years ago and by all accounts has grown into a robust, financially stable high school.

“Makes perfect sense to me,” he said over coffee at Mabenka Restaurant in Burbank. “If the Marist Brothers can open their doors to girls, the Christian Brothers [at St. Laurence] can do the same. It’s just a matter of will, I think.”

St. Laurence alumnus Jeff Brzinskas, who grew up on Chicago’s Southwest Side and today lives in Arizona, said he has been monitoring the situation from afar and shakes his head over the discussion.

“Maybe I grew up in another time, but this seems like such a no-brainer to me,” he said. “Your sister school is in danger, you have the ability to step in and help — so why are we even having this conversation? I think the response from St. Laurence should be an immediate ‘Yes’ to wipe away the stress from Peace girls and their parents. Figure out the details in the weeks ahead.

“In the Viking fight song, we sing about upholding the honor of the black and gold,” he added. “Here is a chance of a lifetime for St. Laurence to put those words into action, a time to shine.”

While Queen of Peace has faltered financially, St. Laurence has reversed years of decline and today shows a healthy fiscal outlook and a multi-year, upward trend in enrollment.

To a limited degree, the schools have conducted co-educational activities over the years, most notably the inclusion of Peace girls in the St. Laurence band and rebranding it with Queen of Peace’s name.

Chicago Ridge mayor asks community to help keep Our Lady of the Ridge open

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar had been busy preparing for the 50th anniversary of his graduating class at Our Lady of the Ridge Elementary School when he got the news.

“Now we find out that the school will close if we don't draw more students and raise more money,” the mayor said. “All of a sudden this is of the most importance.”

School officials were informed by the Chicago Archdiocese on Jan. 11 that Our Lady of the Ridge, 10859 S. Ridgeland Ave., Chicago Ridge, will close in June if funding and enrollments figures do not increase. Parents, students, administrators, teachers, business and community leaders have to show the archdiocese that those goals will be met by the end of February.

“Well, I can't speak for everybody, but I know about my effort and many other people who realize how important is to keep Our Lady of the Ridge open,” Tokar said. “This is an election year and I'm dealing with that, but I believe most of the board knows how crushing it would be for the community if this school closed. We are doing everything in our power to keep it open.”

Tokar grew up in Chicago Ridge and is a 1967 graduate of Our Lady of the Ridge. He said his roots are here and Our Lady of the Ridge has played a great part in that.

According to Mary Grisolano, media relations volunteer and a graduate of Our Lady of the Ridge, OLOR’s goal was to raise $250,000 and secure 114 enrolled students by Sunday, Feb. 26. The school has had an enrollment once as high as 196 but those numbers have dwindled over the years. The school currently has 103 students enrolled and has raised over $120,000. With a major phone-a-thon and fundraiser on the horizon, prospects are optimistic, added Grisolano.

Despite a recent surge, Tokar cautions all Chicago Ridge residents not to become complacent and to do everything humanly possible to keep the school open.

“Look, I'm optimistic,” Tokar said. “We have approached businesses and they have been receptive. Carson's at the Chicago Ridge Mall has been selling coupon books with some of the proceeds going to Our Lady of the Ridge. The same can be said for Kohl's at the Chicago Ridge Mall. Associates at Kohl's at the Mall and three other locations have volunteered to help clean up the school.”

Tokar said that Chipotle's has been donating half of their profits during specific hours to raise funds for Our Lady of the Ridge. Chili's has given percentages of their profits from fundraising efforts that were held leading up to the Super Bowl to assist the school. Jenny's Steakhouse has donated 15 percent of what they make on specific weekdays for Our Lady of the Ridge, the mayor added.

A big fundraising event for Our Lady of the Ridge will be held from 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19 at 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park. The fee is $35 for food and refreshments. Entertainment and raffles will be provided.

Tokar plans to be in attendance, along with other village officials, business and community leaders. The mayor said it will be a good time and alumni should also attend in an effort to help out the school.

A video has been produced that includes alumni and civic leaders talking about how important Our Lady of the Ridge is to the community. Tokar can be seen in the video explaining the benefits of keeping the school open.

“The thing about is that I didn't know is that Our Lady of the Ridge draws from 12 public school districts,” said Tokar. “I was talking to someone who graduated from here and has moved but sends their children here. She told me she usually doesn't leave when she drops off her kids. She shops in the area at several places, like Jack and Pat's, for instance. This is important for business as well. These people shop here and are part of the community. Losing the school would be dreadful.”

The archdiocese has not indicated where they are leaning. They would prefer an enrollment of about 225 but there are other factors besides class sizes. They would like to see a strategy set up to keep the school open not for just this year, but for years to come.

Our Lady of the Ridge opened in 1954 and has served not only Chicago Ridge but nearby Worth, which does not have a Catholic grade school. Students have also attended Our Lady of the Ridge from Alsip, Chicago's Beverly neighborhood and Oak Lawn.

While Tokar is not certain of the outcome, he remains confident.

“I sat at the table during a recent committee meeting and I heard a lot of great ideas on how to keep the school open,” Tokar said. “We have a lot of go-getters here and that's what we need. I believe there is a chance. They are halfway to their goal right now.”

Residents who would like to help keep Our Lady of the Ridge open can go to
























Lipinski nominates Oak Lawn resident to attend West Point

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

patrick fox photo 2-2

Photo by Sharon L. Filkins

Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) honors Oak Lawn resident Patrick Fox on Saturday. Lipinski nominated the Richards High School senior to attend West Point Academy.


The atmosphere in the Johnson-Phelps VFW 5250 banquet room in Oak Lawn was filled with an air of excitement and anticipation on Saturday as 18 high school seniors and their families gathered for a U.S. military nomination ceremony hosted by Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd)

The nomination ceremony recognizes high school students who live in the 3rd District and have been selected by the congressman to receive his nomination to the military academy of their choice, including West Point, the Naval Academy, Air Force Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy.

Jerry Hurckes, Lipinski’s chief of staff, said that this year there were 100 applications received in the office.

“It is not just a simple application. It is a lot of work on the part of the students who have to present their transcripts, school records of their accomplishments and letters of recommendation from instructors and community and civic organizations,” Hurckes said.

He added that the congressman’s nomination is just the first hurdle. “The student still has to be accepted by the academy,” Hurckes said.

Among those nominated to attend West Point was Oak Lawn resident Patrick Fox, a senior at Richards High School and a member of the ROTC.

“Today is one of the proudest moments of my life,” said Fox after receiving his nomination to West Point from the congressman. “I have been working on my application since my sophomore year. It has been a lot of hard work with a lot of stressful moments. I want to thank my parents for their support and understanding through this process. I could not have gotten to this point without them.”

When asked how he chose West Point, he replied that he had begun searching colleges and in his research he determined that the values of West Point Academy, such as character and integrity would help him in his goals for what he hopes to do.

“My dream is to spend 20 years in the military and then hopefully work for the state department. I would hope for the opportunity to work my way up to become an ambassador.”

Fox pointed out that these plans are his dream for his future, but he realizes that life can change unexpectedly.

“But for the present, I have this wonderful opportunity and will do everything I can to make it a reality,” he said.

Four nominees to attend the Naval Academy also represent area schools. They are Brandon Fitzpatrick and Desiree Garcia, both students at Marist High School; Justin O’Connell, a student at St. Rita High School; and Joseph Sweeney, who attends Brother Rice High School.

St. Ignatius High School was represented by Jennifer Stelnick, a nominee for the Merchant Marine Academy.

Other nominees for West Point were James Beecher, Benet Academy; Denise Hernandez, Lindblom Math and Science; Steven Irace, Lemont High School; Drew Litynski, Lockport High School; and John Sims, Kennedy High School.

Additional Naval Academy nominees are Charles Chan, UIC College Prep; John Hirstein, St. John Northwestern; George Pina, NAPS/Chicago Military; Philip Smith and Ryan Hammond, Lyons Township High School; and Grace Rost, Providence Catholic High School.

Nominated to the Air Force Academy was Jordan Brown, Lemont High School.

In his remarks prior to presenting the nominees, Lipinski praised their families, parents and grandparents for being a part of the student’s lives and instilling a sense of commitment to serve.

“We see fewer people today who are willing to make a commitment. So many in today’s world seem to be self-centered. But this group here today have demonstrated they are willing to give of themselves, to give it all, to sacrifice for others,” he said.

Turning to the nominees, he said, “All I can do is nominate you. I can’t get you into the academy. But it is your hard work that got you to this point and I thank you for being willing to make this commitment. Thank you and God bless you.”

Also encouraging the students was Clifford DeTemple, a U.S. Coast Guard recruiter.

“This moment is a pinnacle of your life. It is no small endeavor to join the military. It will change the rest of your life, for the better. It is so different than going to a college. In the academy, you will be trained for leadership positions. Most grads of military academies become Commanders or Admirals,” DeTemple said.

He also cautioned them to be prepared for day one. “You will need to work hard so prepare yourselves. The first weeks can be difficult but once you get past that, it is better.”

Other guest speakers at the event included former Chicago Ald. Jim Balcer, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Bronze Star recipient and a Vietnam War veteran.

Joe Stachon, a former state commander and a former commander of the 3rd District, also spoke. Stachon is also a former commander of the Johnson-Phelps Post.

Hickory Hills honors Good Samaritan business owner

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

ghanda dini photo 2-2

Submitted photo

Ghandi Dini, a business owner in Hickory Hills, is surrounded by family and members of the Hickory Hills City Council last Thursday after being honored for aiding a woman involved in a road rage incident.


A Good Samaritan proclamation and commendation for a local business owner occurred during the Hickory Hills City Council meeting last Thursday night.

Recognized for a selfless act of heroism and concern for a victim of road rage occurring on Oct. 5, 2016 was Ghandi Dini, co-owner of Chill ‘N Grill Spot Restaurant, located at 9348 S. Roberts Road.

Ald. Tom McAvoy (3rd Ward) introduced Dini and read the Good Samaritan Proclamation of Recognition and Gratitude, which outlined the events of that day when Dini left his store and ran out to aid a young woman who had been involved in a traffic collision involving two cars.

Dini was in his store at about 8:30 p.m. when a customer came in and said one of the drivers, a young girl, was being assaulted by a female occupant of the other car. When Dini went out and approached the young woman to help and comfort her, the other woman verbally assaulted him and told him to mind his own business.

When he responded to her remarks, a male occupant of the car joined the woman and they both physically attacked Dini. As he was defending himself and backing up, he tripped and fell. The two people continued beating and kicking him in the face and torso, according to the proclamation.

Witnesses standing by helped pull the attackers off of him just as responding police officers arrived. Dini was treated at the scene by North Palos Fire Department paramedics and transported to Palos Community Hospital, where it was determined he had suffered a fractured left eye socket. He is still recovering from the injury.

Also commending Dini was Police Chief Al Vodicka, who presented him with a Certificate of Appreciation and Gratitude.

“The Police Department commends you for bravery above and beyond the norm, in the face of a physical assault,” said Vodicka.

Phyllis Majka, president of the Hills Chamber of Commerce, also recognized Dini for his bravery in coming to the aid of a young victim and presented him with a one-year free membership in the chamber.

Speaking in response to the outpouring of appreciation, Dini said he was humbled by all the recognition.

“I thank all of you for your kind words. I only did what I had to do,” Dini said. “Someone needed help and I was there. It is what I know in my heart. We are to help people who need help and I will continue to help whenever it is needed.”

On another matter, Mayor Mike Howley announced the city was making a contribution to the Palos Area Bus Transportation for the Elderly and Disabled in the amount of $13,450. He stated that of the 5,000 trips the bus makes annually, 2,000 of them are generated by Hickory Hills residents.

In a committee of the whole meeting conducted prior to the regular council meeting, council members reviewed several options presented by ComEd for improved maintenance of an approximately two-acre lot it owns, located along 76th Avenue, just south of 95th Street and the entrance to I-294 South.

The options offered by ComEd included a chain-link fence, a post and cable fence, a guard rail or concrete barricades.

The consensus of the council was to have a guard rail installed around the lot with one entrance south of the property.

Howley said the lot is unsightly and has been used as a fly-dump spot for years.

“Hopefully, this will be an effective solution,” he said.

Trump is 'lightning rod' but TCC professor says U.S. has been through this before

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The inauguration of President Donald Trump on Jan. 20 made some Americans happy and hopeful, while others are disappointed and rallying against him.
“I think the country is clearly divided.  There are times it has been divided before. There has also been extreme rhetoric before,” said Professor John Fry, chairman of the history department at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights.
Fry sees some parallels between the current situation and the responses to the elections of Barack Obama eight years ago and Ronald Reagan in 1980. But the professor, who teaches classes on American history, said there are similarities with races in more distant times.
“FDR was called a fascist and a communist. Lincoln was called ugly and all sorts of things,” said Fry. Indeed, according to a 2009 issue of Hallowed Ground magazine, Lincoln was lambasted in an editorial in The Salem (Illinois) Advocate, basically his hometown newspaper, while he was making his way by train from Springfield to Washington for his first inauguration in 1861.
In part, the editorial states, "The illustrious Honest Old Abe has continued during the last week to make a fool of himself and to mortify and shame the intelligent people of this great nation. His speeches have demonstrated the fact that although originally a Herculean rail splitter and more lately a whimsical story teller and side splitter, he is no more capable of becoming a statesman, nay, even a moderate one, than the braying ass can become a noble lion. His weak, wishy-washy, namby-pamby efforts, imbecile in matter, disgusting in manner, have made us the laughing stock of the whole world. The European powers will despise us because we have no better material out of which to make a president.”
 Some of those descriptions sound very similar to things said about Obama and Trump.
“People are worried about very basic issues, about life, about government. They are called culture wars, but I think of them as cultural shouting matches. These have been going on for the past 25 years or more. But it’s been peaceful for the most part,” said Fry.
He said the current situation is different than generations ago because, “as the federal government gets more powerful, the election for the president gets more important. We now have this lightning rod [to direct anger at].”  
“Now, the Internet allows people to say whatever they want. There are pros and cons to that. There are a lot of interactions on computers but people are less able to talk to each other in person. It is not good practice. You just type in your 140 characters and send. We now have a president who does that too.”
“No one expected (Trump’s election) to happen. At first, it was a big shock. In a place like Trinity, we get students from a lot of backgrounds, from Chicago and other cities and suburbs, and rural areas of the Midwest.  People have different opinions. We tried to provide space here for students to talk with others who don’t already agree with them. And it has worked out. The intention is to allow people to say what they want. The nice thing is, we try to do it with Christian love,” said Fry.
 “We had a similar situation eight years ago. It looks like a lot of Obama voters voted for Trump this time. Not because they liked Trump, but to vote against Hillary Clinton,” said the professor.
Fry said that because President Trump does not come from a traditional political background, there are more questions than usual with a new president.
“The thing is, we don’t know what he will be able to accomplish,” said Fry, because getting things done will require working with both parties.
He noted that even though Republicans now have control of the White House and majorities in both the House and Senate, it might not be as simple as it looks. “Donald Trump, during the campaign, didn’t show any willingness to listen to the people in his own party who opposed him.”
Despite the uncertainty, Fry said he is optimistic looking ahead to the next four years.
“I am a Christian and I teach at a Christian school. So I am always optimistic because God is always in control,” he said. “If people are unhappy, I would just advise them to get involved locally in politics or join organizations working on the issues you feel strongly about,” said the professor.
“One of the great things about living here is, we have the freedom to assemble and the ability to make our voices heard. If people don’t think government is listening to them, they can get involved locally to get people they want elected,” Fry said.