Wilmette Maria Immaculata Academy

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Maria Immaculata Academy
varneyhsbldingdav.jpg
Known today as Mallinckrodt in the Park

                     The History of Wilmette Maria Immaculata Academy
 
Wilmette (population: 27,700) is located 14 miles north of downtown Chicago in Cook County along Lake Michigan. The community is among a group of suburbs that are part of an affluent area called the North Shore that serve as bedroom communities to the residents who live there while commuting to Chicago for work.
 
The community's name comes from Antoine Ouilmette, who was a French-Canadian fur trader that married Archange, the daughter of Potawatomi Indian chief Sauganash. The trader was instrumental in getting many Native Americans that lived in the area to sign the Treaty of Prairie du Chien in 1829, which they agreed to vacate their lands in present-day Wilmette and Evanston.
 
Ouilmette was awarded 1,280 acres of that land in the same year that the treaty was signed. He would later sell the land to farmers and developers in 1848, and a pair of communities were formed under the names Gross Point and Wilmette. The latter would be incorporated in 1872, while the former was annexed to Wilmette two years later. On an interesting note, Evanston was nearly annexed to Wilmette in 1894, but the voters said no at the polls by just three votes!
 
Wilmette can be reached by taking the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad into town, or by traveling along the lake on Sheridan Road, or further inside the city on Ridge, Green Bay, or Wilmette Roads. US 41 and Interstate 94 pass a couple of  miles to the west.
Maria Immaculata Academy was opened in February 1916 by the Sisters of Christian Charity, which had moved their Motherhouse from Wilkes Barre, PA a short time prior to coming to the Midwest. The school's main purpose was to be an admissions point for those young females who wished to become aspirants or had aspriations to joining the Sisters' community. The school was small in enrollment (about 45 on average) and a part of the Christian Charity organization, along with the Motherhouse, Mallinckrodt High School, and the novitiate (those who were in the first step of professing their vows to the community). Mallinckrodt College (open from 1918 and became part of Loyola University of Chicago in 1991) was also part of the organization during that time. 
 
According to information found by archives assistant Sr. Anastasia with the Sisters of Christian Charity while researching the school for this website, she reported:
 
"When our Mother Foundress [Pauline von Mallinckrodt] inaugurated the work of the Congregation of teaching Sisters a century ago, she laid down the following norm in the Constitutions of the Congregation: “…from a thorough religious education flows the temporal and the eternal welfare of the individual and of society.”
 

In keeping with this norm, the curriculum of Maria Immaculata Academy is arranged to develop the student into the “true Christian” equipped to educate and discipline herself and ready to begin the preparation which will qualify her to form true Christian minds in young Americans. The curriculum is, of necessity, largely college preparatory… specific efforts are made by the teachers…to detect special aptitudes and abilities so as to insure the most effective placing and consequent training of each aspirant. [an aspirant is a girl of high school age desiring to enter religious life.] The program is so arranged that should an aspirant decide to leave at any time, it will be possible for her to continue her studies at any regular high school.

 

Since only such pupils are enrolled in our high school who come for the purpose of preparing for the consecrated life of service in the interests of youth, or better said, for the purpose of discovering whether they have the requisite qualifications for that life, the guidance program is different from that in a regular high school. During the successive stages of their preparation, the aspirants live in the convent under the direction of experienced, well-trained mistresses. These mistresses direct and guide them in becoming emotionally and socially adjusted to their new environment and train them in the ways of the consecrated life which they contemplate embracing after they have graduated from the academy."

Maria Immaculata thrived at educating teenage girls thru the 1960's and even shared instructors with Mallinckrodt HS, who were in the same building. Unfortunately, during the later part of the 1960's, teaching orders started to have fewer girls join the communities, which led to not as many nuns teaching and, as a result, put a strain on many parochial school's finances by having to hire lay teachers.

 

Sr. Anastasia stated in conclusion that "...beginning in June, 1968, the aspirancy was “temporarily” suspended. Only two applicants had been received for the aspirancy for September; the total enrollment would be 16 or 17 students. The original plan was to suspend the aspirancy for two years; however, after that period, it was not reopened."

 

(Thank you to Sr. Anastasia for her information on this page!)

 

The building that housed Maria Immaculata Academy still stands today as a condiminum facility for senior citizens called Mallickrodt in the Park.

 

 

FACTS ABOUT WILMETTE MARIA IMMACULATA ACADEMY

 

Year opened:                        1916

Year closed:                         1968 

 

MEMORIES

 

**From Kathy McNally DeBock:

 

"The two years I spent as an aspirant with the Sisters were the most beautiful and happy days of my life.  I attended from 1965 through 1967.  The peaceful walk through the apple trees down to the cemetery and stations of the cross is incomparable to any place that I have found to pray in lay life. It was a wonderful life.  Thank you to all the sisters who helped us grow closer to God. I would have loved to have seen the building one more time before the condo conversion."

     

**From Gloria Hinojosa:

 

"The year I attended the aspirancy was probably the most memorable of my life.  I would venture to say it was the most profoundly spiritual year I have ever experienced.  There will never again exist that spirit of community, that special, extraordinary celebration of holidays.  I even remember how we celebrated the passing of a Sister's life.  And yes,  the  "cemetery and stations of the cross is incomparable to any place that I have found to pray in lay life. It was a wonderful life"  I totally agree.  The experience of living at Maria Immaculata in 1960-61 has been incomparable.  Hard to believe, it closed in 1968.  Guess I would have just made it out of being a postulant."

     

DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER INFORMATION ABOUT....

 

Maria Immaculata Academy? Then we'd like to hear from you about your experiences and memories of the school. Please contact us at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net or send your information to the following address:

 

Illinois High School Glory Days

6439 North Neva

Chicago, IL  60631