Chicago Mercy High School

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Mercy High School
mercyhs.jpg
courtesy of an anonymous source

                              The History of Chicago Mercy High School
 
Chicago (population 2.8 million) is located in northeastern Illinois in eastern Cook County. Lake Michigan, the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers are the main waterways to and from town. Interstates 90, 94, 55, and 57 will all lead you to the "Windy City," as will numerous US and state routes, which at one time included the legendary Route 66. From what started as a small village in the early 1800's, Chicago has grown to the nation's third largest city and one of the most famous places in the world.

Mercy High School was opened in the fall of 1924 at the corner of 81st & Prairie Avenue as five parish schools either had their enrollments altered or closed their doors to form a centrally-located school on Chicago's south side. Those schools included St. Elizabeth (which stayed open for African-American students), St. Ita, St. Patrick on the Southeast side, St. James, and St. Gabriel. The Sisters of Mercy were in charge of the all-girls' school (hence, the name Mercy in the title), and occupied one square city block with their building, which cost one million dollars to build between 1924-26.

A total of 712 students were enrolled that first school year in either academic or commercial classes. The first graduates left the school in spring of 1926 as a class of 126 strong. Although the commercial program was discontinued in 1932, the school grew to a high of 1,187 students in the fall of 1943 and stayed over 1,000 for well over two decades. African-Americans were accepted beginning in 1954 as the racial makeup of the south side began to change.

Mercy experienced a decline in enrollment, fewer religious teachers from the Sisters of Mercy community, and an increasing financial deficit as 1970 came along, and discussions began to take place about the school's future. After a considerable amount of time, it was decided to merge Mercy and Loretto Academy from the Woodlawn neighborhood in the fall of 1972 in the Mercy building, at the urging of Rev. Robert Clark, who served as the superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago at that time.

The new school was called Unity and remained open until 1980 when it was part of a merger with St. Thomas the Apostle, Visitation, and Aquinas Dominican to form the VAUT Corporate System, which opened two new schools, Unity Catholic and Aquinas Catholic. You can read more about each school by clicking on their names.

Chicago Mercy HS Sweater
chicagomercyhssweaterdav.jpg
Submitted by Patricia McCray (Hankins) Unity HS Class of 1976

FACTS ABOUT CHICAGO MERCY HIGH SCHOOL
 
Year opened:              1924
Year closed:                1972
School colors:             Yellow & White
School nickname:       unknown
School song:               "Mercy Girls"
 
From Lynn:
 
"Mercy Girls" would form a "Mercy Circle" and sing:
 
                                  A Mercy girl is hard to beat
                                  She has that Mercy look from head to feet.
                                  She has that smile, that style that winning way
                                  And when you look at her you'll recognize her and you'll say
                                  Now that's a girl I'd like to know
                                  She has that good old Mercy pep and glow
                                  And just one date with her is such a treat
                                  She can't be beat.  She's one of those Mercy Girls
 
 
 
 
EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
 
We are aware that the ladies from Mercy participated in volleyball and basketball at one time against other Chicago Catholic schools, but are unaware if there were other activities that they competed in, whether it be telegraphic contests with the IHSA in archery, swimming, or bowling.
 
Basketball
 
Mercy High competed in the Catholic High School Girls Basketball League, which existed from 1927 to 1931. The school played in the league against St. Catherine, Loretto High, Loretto Academy, Aquinas, Alvernia, Visitation, Longwood, and other all-girls schools.  Mercy won the first two league championships, in 1927 and 1928.
 
Volleyball
 
From the IHSA's website, we have found that Mercy competed in a volleyball tournament in 1940, against the likes of Lourdes, Loretto Academy, Loretto High School, and St. Martin Commercial. More details are available at: http://www.ihsa.org/initiatives/hstoric/volleyball_early.htm
 
Certainly, there had to be many extra-curricular activities that were a fun and educational part of attending Mercy. Band, chorus, student government, plays, and many other activities were likely offered throughout the school year.
 
MEMORIES
 
**From Lynn Bauer:
 
"I attended Mercy HS from 1960-1964. Don't remember the school song, but there was one. The school colors were yellow and white. Volleyball was still a big sport there in those years. We had school dances in the gym. Boys from St. Leo, St. Rita, Mendel, Brother Rice came with girls from Mercy."
 
**From Jane Lichtenberger Patton (Class of '52):
 
"I attended Mercy from 48-52, when Sr. Mary of the Angels was principal, Sr. Joel- VP, and Sr. RoseMarie- vocal teacher, Sr. Bernadine- Band, and Mary Synon-Drama teacher, Ms. Smith-gym teacher, just to mention a few.

"I loved school and the nuns MOST of the time, and was very involved in singing, drama, and sports. We would stroll around the block during lunch period, and on several occassions decided to live dangerously and take a "double lunch," which meant we would skip a class after lunch and mingle with the next lunch group so as not to be discovered. OOOOooo, those were the days!

"My mother, Rita Munday, and aunt, Mary Margaret Munday, as well as my sisters Pat and Suzie Lichtenberger also attended Mercy. It would be great to hear from other classmates, ("lights in the crowd," as Sr. Mary of the Angels called us) with stories of school days.

"Thanks for your efforts."
 
**From Mary Mroczkowski Lewandowski (Class of 1952):
 
"I graduated from Mercy in 1952 and remember Jane Lichtenberger, she had the most gracious voice.I also took voice lessons from Sr. Rosemarie. The operettas we gave were great fun. I don't have too many contacts from the class of '52, the only ones I remember are Audery Bartosz Martini, Mary Ann Zackie Stone, Marlene Komorski Marlowe, I would love to hear from my classmates."
 
**From Sr. Maureen Courtney (Class of 1956):
 
"I graduated from Mercy High School in 1956. I treasure many memories from that school and always remember the counsels we received! Sister Mary Mark was the new principal in our senior year but we all still fondly remembered Sister Mary of the Angels. One can only speak with pride about the beauties of that place. 
 
"On a more humorous note: as a Little Sister of the Poor and caring for the elderly, one dear lady in Denver confided to me: "when I was growing up in Chicago I attended St. Xavier Academy on Cottage Grove. My fondest memory was a beautiful young sister - and I don't know whatever happened to her. Her name was Sister Mary of the Angels." It proved to me that it is a small world after all and that each of the Sisters made an impression on us in ways we never knew. God Bless."
 
**From Arlene Callender Bradshaw (Class of 1960):
 
"I graduated from Mercy in 1960 and my sister, Joan Callender Mulligan graduated in 1953. I remember Sister Rosemarie well. My sister could sing like an angel...was in Glee Club and Acapella.  When I started as a freshman in 1956, Sister had Glee Club tryouts, and with a name like "Callender", she remembered the connection and was overjoyed to see that Joan's sister wanted to be in the Glee Club also. Little did she know that Joan sang like an angel and Arlene squawked like a crow!  After I did my required tryout, Sister said, "Dear, your voice is interesting, but you're certainly not your sister." She strove to teach all of us Glee Club "rejects" how to sing, but most important I remember how she taught us to appreciate music...from show tunes to Gregorian Chant. 
 
"After being reassured that I really didn't sing well, I immediately went down to the sewing room and made friends with Sister Ambrosia. I loved going to Mercy and my most favorite time of the year was the three days before Thanksgiving when we'd have our Retreat."
 
From Sharonrose Zane-Neu....
 
"My mom was Rose T. Young,she was an orphan who attended Mercy High with the thanks of Father I.D. McDermott. She attended during WWII.
 
"The girls at Mercy dated the boys at Mt. Carmel. Mom dated a boy named Bob Otton, who was the captain of the football team. Bob went to the Marine corps,while mom stayed at Mercy. They were to be married when he returned. He lost his life at Iwo Jima. My mom finished High School, attended Northwestern U. Then later she married. I wouldn't have had the mother I did if it wasn't for the upbringing she received from Father McDermott, and the education from Mercy. She wasn't just my mom: she was my best friend. I miss her so very much."
 
From JoAnne Bloom:
 
"During the 1960's, Mercy girls came from almost every parish and neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago: Bridgeport, Canaryville, West Lawn, Chicago Lawn, Chatham, Gresham, Roseland, Pullman, Marquette, South Shore, Auburn, etc. A private bus system carried girls of every race & almost every nationality to Mercy."
              
From Julie White (class of 1972):

"I was in the last graduating class of Mercy! My sister, Adrienne White and my cousin Annette White, were in the class of 1969. My memories have faded over time. But fondest memories were of senior year. I participated in the Glee Club Show and in the annual fundraiser.

"Sister Rosemary was there and I remember Sister David Marie said that I would never pass her Math class and I did. I remember skipping class to play bid whist in the rec room.

"I loved the overnight retreat in the building when we roamed the dark halls. And the "beverages" we sneaked in on our Senior overnight. The class of '72 was an awesome bunch! I use to feel we were the urban version of 'The Trouble With Angels.'"

from Tom Doyle:

My great aunt was Sr. Mary Augustine Keyes, a Mercy Nun. She ran the bookstore at Mercy in the 1950's, I believe. My mother (her niece), would take us to visit her at the school and Sr. Augustine would give us kids ginger ale down in the bookstore. Sr. Augustine was a lovely person who died in 1965 at the age of 69."




WE'VE ONLY BEGUN...
 
to scratch the surface about the history of Mercy High School. If you and or anyone you know has more information, please contact us so that we keep the history of the school alive. Facts, photos, names of notable alumni, words to the school song, and memories are very special to us. Please contact us by emailing us at dr.veeman@gmail.com or send it via the USPS to:
 
Illinois High School Glory Days
6439 North Neva
Chicago, IL  60611