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New NW Side Regional Catholic School Could Be Named for Pope Francis

By Heather Cherone | October 12, 2015 5:54am
 Voters can name the school for, clockwise from top left, St. Francis, Blessed Francis Ozanam, Pope Francis and Mother Teresa.
Voters can name the school for, clockwise from top left, St. Francis, Blessed Francis Ozanam, Pope Francis and Mother Teresa.
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PORTAGE PARK — The name of the newly created regional academy that will merge the schools of four Far Northwest Side Catholic churches has been narrowed down to four finalists, and parishioners and parents can vote for their choice through Thursday.

Voters can use an online survey to choose between Pope Francis, Mother Teresa, St. Francis or Blessed Francis Ozanam, officials with the Archdiocese of Chicago said.

Members of a local planning group charged with helping the archdiocese launch the school, which will open in September 2016, selected Mother Teresa, St. Francis and Ozanam as the three individuals who "best represented their developing spiritual vision" for the school.

Archbishop Blase Cupich added Pope Francis' name to the list of finalists, group members said.

Francis named Cupich archbishop of Chicago after Cardinal Francis George stepped down while suffering from cancer. George died earlier this year.

St. Cornelius, Our Lady of Victory, St. Pascal and St. Tarcissus schools will be consolidated into one school — with two campuses — over the next year, with the new school opening in fall 2016-17, according to the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The school's campuses — each with preschool through eighth grade —  will be at St. Pascal in Portage Park and the other at St. Tarcissus in Gladstone Park.

The school buildings at Our Lady of Victory in Portage Park and St. Cornelius in Jefferson Park will close after the 2015-16 school year.

Cupich has said the merger is needed to preserve Catholic education in an era of declining enrollment and massive budget deficits.

Mother Teresa, known officially as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, died in 1997. In India, she founded the Missionaries of Charity and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for dedicating her life to helping the poorest of the poor.

Ozanam, who died in 1853, founded the St. Vincent DePaul Society, which helps the poor. He also started a newspaper dedicated to securing justice for the poor and working classes.

St. Francis of Assisi, who died in 1226, worked to alleviate poverty, and is the patron saint of animals and the environment.

When he was elected pope in 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose the name Francis to honor the saint, and reflect his commitment to helping the poor.

Since becoming pope, Francis has won accolades for his message of inclusiveness and emphasis on serving the poor while de-emphasizing divisive social issues like gay marriage and abortion.

The survey asks voters to consider several factors when picking a name for the new school, including whether students can identify with the school's namesake, whether that person is relevant today and whether the name will lend "itself to easy branding, to signage and to a sport team's identity."

Only one survey per family should be submitted, officials said.

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