Our Lady of Victory students

Third grade students walk through the lunch room at Our Lady of Victory in Chicago on Jan. 9. School officials have been told the school may remain open after a fundraising effort. Our Lady of Victor and St. Christopher Catholic School in Midlothian both have been taken off a list of Catholic school slated for closing this year. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune / January 9, 2014)

The Archdiocese of Chicago has granted a reprieve to two of the six struggling Catholic schools slated to close by the end of the schools, according to clergy and parents at both schools.

St. Christopher Catholic School in Midlothian and Our Lady of Victory Catholic Schools on Chicago’s North Side learned Friday afternoon that they could proceed with open houses  and other activities during Catholic Schools Week, which starts Sunday.

St. Christopher organized a pledge drive that raised $1.8 million over a five-year period, said the Rev. Kris Paluch, pastor of St. Christopher Catholic Church. Parents and school leaders also proposed strategies for boosting enrollment from the current 217 students, he said.

“We needed something stable for now to persuade new families to bring their kids here,” said Paluch. “If they know that we’re secure for 5 or 8 years, that’s long enough to trust us.”

Parents at Our Lady of Victory raised more than $760,000, said Mary Beth Frystak, a pastoral associate at the parish. “Right now everything looks positive and they want us to keep going,” she said.

In addition to Our Lady of Victory and St. Christopher, four other Catholic schools learned they were closing earlier this month: the Stewart Avenue campus of the Academy of St. Benedict the African in Chicago, Santa Maria del Popolo in Mundelein, St. Florian Catholic School on Chicago’s Southeast Side, and St. Bernadette Catholic School in Evergreen Park.

“These plans, born of prayer, expertise, hard work, and the generosity of the Catholic community, provide the confidence needed to allow registration for the coming school year,” said Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of Chicago Catholic Schools. “These plans, however, have very specific benchmarks that are understood by the schools’ leadership teams.”

The Archdiocesan will review each school’s progress by March 1.

McCaughey said St. Florian also entered the appeals process. But since they did so later than other schools, they have been given additional time to come up with a plan to stay open.

mbrachear@tribune.com

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