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Catholic Schools Week starts Sunday and two Chicago area schools are celebrating

There is much to celebrate for two Catholic schools in the Chicago area this week. After being told their schools were slated for closure by the Archdiocese, Our Lady of Victory on Chicago's north side and St. Christopher in Midlothian held a pledge drive.

Sixth-grade student Jocelyn Padilla protests with other students and parents outside the office of Chicago Board of Education in July 2013 to save our schools.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

On Friday, parents at Our Lady of Victory learned their school would remain open after raising over $760,000 in two weeks to keep the school open, including an anonymous donor of $80,000.

Another pledge drive at St. Christopher Parish in Midlothian raised $1.8 million within a week and commitments over the next five years to keep their school open. This is great news for these two Catholic schools celebrating Catholic Schools Week.

My Fox Chicago reported the parish pastor at St. Christopher, Rev. Kris Paluch said, “We did it!" Proclaiming the news from the pulpit to parents and students at a meeting called Friday. "This has been a journey of prayer, effort and great anticipation,” Paluch said. “We could not accomplish anything without the support of our community. I did not dream we would be so successful in such a short time."

There is much to celebrate in the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools as they prepare for this week's activities. Catholic Schools Week, which began in 1974, is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States.

National Catholic Schools Week is observed across the country. Every year Catholic Schools Week begins the last Sunday in January and runs all week. This year it runs from January 26 to February 1. The annual celebration is a joint project between the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Schools typically observe National Catholic Schools Week with Masses, open house and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members.

This year’s theme, for 2014 is, “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”

Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our church, our communities and our nation.

The two Catholic schools mentioned above were among six schools struggling financially and were targeted for closure. The Archdiocese confirmed the reprieves, adding that a third school, St. Florian Catholic School on the Southeast Side, has been given additional time "to complete their plan for long-range sustainability."

Other schools slated include the Stewart Avenue campus of the Academy of St. Benedict the African on the South Side; St. Bernadette in Evergreen Park; and Santa Maria del Popolo in Mundelein.

According to the Catholic New World newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago, over 84,000 students attend Catholic schools in the Archdiocese and their 6,000 caring and committed educators will be celebrating their achievements along with their communities and families at 244 elementary and high schools in Cook and Lake Counties throughout the week.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of National Catholic Schools Week which recognizes Catholic education as a great gift to the Church and the nation.