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A Spirited Tradition

by Tricia Despres • September 1, 2018

School of St. Mary in Lake Forest continues its ministry to help form the lives and the hearts of its students. PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROBIN SUBAR


In the middle of the school day when students are gathered together in their classrooms, Father Michael Nacius of the Church of St. Mary will walk down the hallways of the School of St. Mary, eager for the chance to listen to the joyous sounds of learning happening all around him.

“We are one school with two campuses four miles apart, so it can be challenging, but it’s so worth it,” says Father Nacius, who has served as pastor of Church of St. Mary since July of 2016. “From the innocence of the three and four year olds to the maturity of the eighth graders who are growing both intellectually and spiritually, it’s truly something to see … and hear.”

Indeed, as the school enters its 102nd school year this fall, it remains one of the bright lights in the community of Lake Forest. Led by Mr. Dave Wieters and Mrs. Kathy Thompson and their highly devoted staff, the school offers its students a truly one-of-a-kind education in which the human spirit is energized in a variety of ways.

“At the Church and School of St. Mary, we form hearts, souls and minds, to learn, to serve and to lead,” says Father Nacius. “The School of St. Mary has always emphasized spiritual development as well as academic excellence. We appreciate the trust that families put in the parish and school leadership so that we can spiritually, physically, and intellectually develop our children to regard faith formation and education as a lifelong process.”

And while the school often serves as the heartbeat of the church, both the school and the church serve as the heartbeat for the entire surrounding community. And it’s this community that has had a longstanding investment in both the church and the school. This relationship is best exemplified during the parish block party, which joined together Catholic education alumni, neighbors, friends, and parishioners to celebrate the school’s 100th anniversary in 2017.

“There was such a joyous energy around the centennial celebration event a year ago,” recalls Father Nacius. “In fact, I’ve never been a part of a school parish that has so much energy, between the programs and the activities, and the kids and the faculty. There is nothing like it. St. Mary’s is very special.”

The school looks to continue building on that energy between the community and the school during their 2nd annual block party, set to take place on September 8.

“A strong parish as an anchor for the community is a blessing for parishioners and neighbors,” says Father Nacius. “It’s especially gratifying to see so many past students moving back into Lake Forest so their kids can now attend the school.”

Indeed, finding both a sense of tradition along with a spiritual anchor in the world today can be of so much importance for people young and old, as so many find themselves struggling with the pressures of the day.

“We live in a complex world, without a doubt, and some aspects of our world appear to be growing ever more complex,” he says. “Focusing on God, his Son, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, we stand on a 2,000-year history of being led by God’s grace amidst the complexities of life. With God-centered loving, praying, celebrating, and learning, there are so many moments of grace at the church and the school. One must always remember that Jesus can serve as the calm in the storms of life.”

For more information on the School of St. Mary, call 847-283-9800 (primary grade center) and 847-234-0371 (upper grade center) or visit