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The Catholic New World
Quigley's great goodbye

Michelle Martin

March 11 was a "bittersweet" day for Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary and its community of faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends, said Father Peter Sneig, the school's president and rector.

The Archdiocese of Chicago's high school seminary will close its doors in June after 102 years of educating young men who are considering the priesthood. On March 11, Quigley hosted "The Great Goodbye" to give everyone an opportunity to visit the school one last time.

In his homily at an evening Mass in St. James Chapel, Cardinal George spoke of the importance of relationships-people's relationships with God, but also with the people who teach them about God. Such relationships endure to eternity, when everything else falls away.

"We look at the closing of this building as a school and its transition to something new, and it's sad," the cardinal said. "But the relationships forged here will last forever."

The day included a morning Mass celebrated by Cardinal Edward Egan of the Archdiocese of New York, who graduated from Quigley in 1951 and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1957. There was an afternoon concert and then an evening Mass celebrated by Cardinal George, who, though a Chicago native, attended St. Henry Preparatory Seminary in Belleville.

Throughout the day, the building at Chestnut and Rush streets was open to alumni and friends, who came in and searched out their class pictures on the corridor walls and met up with classmates.

Older men clustered together and shared old times, while younger alumni roamed in groups, some carrying trophies and plaques that the school was giving away.

"I couldn't miss this," said Mike Gianoli, who graduated in 1993. "The community here has always been very welcoming to me. They always gave us the feeling that we could come back here."

Gianoli did come back-most recently in September, the week before the closing was announced. He was glad, he said, to have that last visit.

John Phan, who graduated in 2002 and now is on the faculty at Quigley, spent the day finding alumni and taking them to a confidential location where students traditionally wrote their names on the walls before leaving. He gave the former students one last chance to inscribe themselves on the school's history.

His classmate, Terry Pawlowski, said the day was "like a funeral" for the school. Much like a funeral, it was a sad occasion that brought old friends back together.

Some of those old friends were from the class of 1956, including Bob Olson of Beverly, who also served on the school's board of advisors.

He came with his friend Martin Husk, also from Beverly, and they were meeting classmates who came in from other states.

"We just got a wonderful education and made life-long friends," Olson said.

"We all learned to give back," Husk said. "Paying it forward, you could say."

At the end of the evening Mass, Sneig presented three members of the Quigley community who took that lesson to heart with "St. James Awards."

They went to Bishop Jakubowski, who, after attending Quigley and going on to be ordained, coached, taught and served as dean there; John Callahan, whose father and son both attended Quigley and who served on a variety of committees and boards and, through his catering company, supplied food for a variety of events; and Dr. Jack Raba, a well-known physician who works at Stroger Hospital and for years provided sports physicals to Quigley students.

Sneig said the school decided to have a goodbye event because so many alumni wanted to see the school before it closed. When the decision was announced, the school had an enrollment of 183 students and was running a deficit of more than $1 million a year. At the same time, only one Quigley student from the past 16 years had gone on to be ordained for the archdiocese. Several more have continued in the seminary system in recent years; seven Quigley graduates are enrolled at St. Joseph College Seminary, and four are studying at Mundelein Seminary or in major seminaries in Rome.

After the school closes, the archdiocese will renovate the building-leaving the chapel and its stained-glass windows intact and move pastoral center offices there.


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