Frassati Catholic Academy is the regional Catholic Elementary and Middle School serving children Preschool through 8th Grade of St. Mary of the Annunciation, Santa Maria del Popolo, Transfiguration parishes and surrounding communities. Frassati Catholic Academy offers quality, well-rounded education rooted in the teachings and traditions of the Catholic faith. Our school houses students on two campuses, Mundelein & Wauconda.
We invite you to learn more about what makes the Frassati Catholic Academy school community a warm, nurturing place for students to grow academically, spiritually, physically and socially, as well as become the disciples Jesus is calling them to be.
Honoring St. Mary School’s Legacy
Calling all St. Mary School alumni, parents, long-time parishioners and current Frassati families. You are invited to share your memories and stories of what school was like when you or your student attended St. Mary School throughout its long and rich history. This is an opportunity to pay tribute to a favorite current or former teacher, share a memory or testimonial about what you love best, and reflect on the impact and legacy of our parish school in your life.
Celebrating 120+ Years of Memories at St. Mary School
Thank you to all teachers who have or are currently teaching at St. Mary. St. Mary was where I first learned to love and appreciate Catholic education, and I was part of a community that felt like a family. After attending both a Catholic high school and college, I have a deeper understanding of how teaching at a Catholic school is a sacrifice of both money and job security, but my teachers chose to teach at St. Mary so they could teach about their faith and be a part of our community. It is wonderful how many people make this sacrifice for the children they serve.
St. Mary Fun Fact: When people hear I am from the Chicago suburbs, everyone imagines I must be a city girl. Then, I love telling them that I went to elementary school in a cornfield, and we used to be the only church in the archdiocese to have cows on our property!
Rebecca Galuska Class of 2010
The reason why we choose Frassati for our family is that we want our children to have the opportunity to get a fantastic education while being nurtured as a steward of the Catholic faith. As soon as we walked through the doors, we felt a part of this amazing, loving and supportive community. Eight years later, my children continue to receive an excellent education and grow stronger in their faith.
Erin Gardner Parent of Current Students
Here are my remembrances of St. Mary's in 1963-64 when it was just St. Mary's.
I came from St. Ita's in Chicago with large classes to St. Mary's where there were 3 grades in one room, which took a lot of getting used to. The Nuns were the teachers. The smaller children were in a separate building down from the main school and is now a private home.
I was surprised that some of the 13 in my 8th-grade class was quite standoffish most of that year. The ones that accepted me were great and we still keep in touch.
My first Midnight Mass was so very special especially the small children carrying in Baby Jesus and putting Him in the manger.
It was fun to wear a cap and gown for graduation from 8th grade. The school districts were very different back then so only a few of the 13 joined me at Libertyville Fremont H.S.
Linda Goldsberry Class of 1964
When we first came to St. Mary from out of state in'91, we were greeted by Judy Hertel and Sr. Rita. It was pretty clear by the way we were greeted and welcomed that they were not going to let us leave without registering! Soon we were glad to be here Prayer buddies, reading buddies, Mission parties, birthday parties for Mother Mary on Sept. 8th, the Giving Tree, Living Stations, Lenten Soup Lunches prepared by Mrs. Hertel and the " Special Teachers", band, cheerleading, the teachers all dressing in the same sweatshirts for holidays all became occasions to look forward to.
A few years later, I became an aide in the kindergarten and spent the next 20 years in what has to be the next best thing to heaven! Little ones coming in each August to teach the ways of school - math, social studies, calendar, religion, music, art, gym, computers, library, and learning to read. My joy and favorite part of the year was as each student suddenly realized they could read! To see their eyes light up as all those letters and sounds now making sense is just so special! Watching those same students as they went on to other grades and rejoicing in their accomplishments - spelling bee, geography bees, D.A.R.E., First Communion, Confirmation, Scouting, 4H, graduation and beyond.
I have made many friends among the faculty, staff, and parents over the years at St. Mary School. The memories and friends will always be there for me.
Rita Gunther Kindergarten Aide 1993-2013
I taught kindergarten at St. Mary's, and I loved every second of it! Every day was a new adventure and a new opportunity to help young minds develop. My experience was such a positive one because our school was a family. The teachers love each other dearly and work together as a team to make our school and the children's education the best it can be. The parents are involved and work with the teachers to help their children succeed. The parents devote endless hours towards volunteering for playground and lunch duty, organizing fundraisers, decorating and planning parties and events, and supplying teachers with anything they might need. The students were wonderful- such a pleasant, sweet, polite group of children. I loved every child that I had the honor of teaching, and I am so blessed to have had that opportunity. I would walk into the building and feel at home because I loved and cared about everyone in the building, and I truly felt that the feelings were mutual. This tight-knit St. Mary's family made my teaching career the amazing experience that I remember so fondly.
Christina Hanrahan Kindergarten Teacher 2009-2014
I attended the school of St. Mary of the Annunciation in the years of 1978-1979. We had a graduation class of 16 students. Fr. Morrissey was the residing Pastor and Sister Elaine was our Principal at the time. I remember having our lunches in the little church basement. Our 8th-grade dance was also held there. Our 8th-grade classes were held in one of the mobile homes that were there at the time. My experience as a student of St. Mary's was very fruitful to my academics and in my faith formation before entering high school. I feel blessed having the opportunity to have attended such a wonderful school with such a rich history and abundant faith. I am still an active parishioner and have enjoyed experiencing all the changes and building friendships throughout the years.
Catherine (Kawa) Hansen 1978-1979
One teacher taught two grades (1st/2nd; 3rd/4th at the little school; 5th/6th; 7th/8th); went to Mass every day. Best teacher I ever had--Mrs. Moe. The principal was ALSO the 7th/8th grade teacher. Recess for an hour. The convent was connected to the school. My closest friends are still my classmates from St. Mary--even 40-50 years later (I graduated from a class of 10). We can go MANY years without seeing each other--but there is ALWAYS that CLOSE connection. My family has five or more generations that attended St. Mary's (before it was known as "Annunciation" -- we always knew as St. Mary's Fremont Center and will always refer to it this way. I taught 6th grade CCD as an adult. I love the parish families--Hertel, Behm, Tekampe, Titus, McNamara, Baker, Stramich, Baum, Lenzen, Zaleski, Steffenhagen, Beelow, Olsen, Diebold, Ullrich, and many others who are "family" either in blood or spirit. I think everyone remembers when Grandpa Zaleski had the greenhouse behind the church and made sure each school child had a plant/flower to give to Mom on Mother's Day. I would be VERY HAPPY to share many more memories--there are MANY stories to tell. It was an honor to ring the school bell, walk the nun's dog BeBe, and learn great study skills. Please don't hesitate to contact me for more stories.
Marie Hertel Class of 1971
I (Rose Ann Beelow Kraemer) was born in 1936 in a farmhouse about one mile from St. Mary’s. My mother wrote in her diary that there were below zero temperatures for days and heavy snowstorms with a lot of drifting. Highway 59a was closed for a couple days and just got opened up about 4 hours before I was born. The doctor came to the house. My mother was born in the same house. St. Mary’s School wasn’t there when my mother went to school. She went to Ivanhoe School, but my parents got married there in the rectory because my dad was not catholic, I think by Father Steer. I was baptized, received my first communion and was confirmed at the old church. I started school when I was 5. My brother was one year ahead of me and I studied with him and knew how to read before I started first grade. There was no kindergarten at that time. Most of the time we either walked or rode our bikes to school. I graduated in 1949. There were two teaching nuns plus one as a housekeeper. Sister Lillian taught grade 1 through grade 4 and Sister Alverna taught grade 5 through grade 8. At the time I thought Sister Alverna was terrible, but later I realized she was a wonderful and great teacher. She was strict but fair. There was 8 in my graduation class. Ann Behm, Marilyn Weidner, Shirley Behm, Virginia Long, Bill Leffelman, Jim Obenauf, Ed Miller and myself, Rose Ann Beelow. Anyone remember any of these names? Ann and Ed still live in the area, Marilyn in Georgia and Jim in Arizona. I live in Libertyville. Father Nabholz was the priest at the parish then. His sister was his housekeeper. A few of us kids used to go to the rectory at lunch time and Father or his sister would give us candy. We loved going there to say hi, get their blessing and get candy. I remember interrupting their lunch at times. I got married there in 1955 by Father Burke. My oldest son was baptized there in 1958 by Father Burke. We had our vows renewed in 2005 at our 50th wedding anniversary mass in the old church. My brothers and parents (Beelow), grandparents (Bauernschmitt) and great grandparents (Tradt) are all buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery.
Rose Ann (Beelow) Kraemer Class of 1949
I was at the school for 11 years and believe it or not I loved being there and miss many things about it. The school and parish continue to hold a very special place in my heart!
1. The students were amazing. They were Christian in spirit, respectful, intelligent, worked hard for their grades, fun loving and athletic. They exhibited good leadership skills through student participation in church liturgies, Student Council, the Buddy program and DARE. The students desired to succeed and to be their best. They continued to do well in high school, and I was always proud of them and of their accomplishments!
2. The faculty and staff at St. Mary's provided a strong Catholic based curriculum and a comprehensive academic program for our students. The teachers exhibited a strong work ethic and continued to grow as professional educators. They worked well together as a united team for the students and parents. They supported each other in the use of multiple instructional strategies for the best learning environment for the students. The faculty put in many hours before and after school without being asked. They always put the students’ needs first. Each student was just as important as the next one. A more dedicated and caring faculty you will never find in my opinion.
3. Some qualities I hope to have instilled in the students are a strong Catholic faith, the love of God, family, neighbor and themselves. Another quality would be a strong educational drive that will help them achieve a higher education in high school, college or a trade. The faculty and I worked with them on decision making and how to make the right choices and also using their common sense. I hope I helped instill in them confidence in themselves to try new things and not be afraid of failure.
4. My favorite memories are the hardest question of all. There is not enough paper space for sure! * Time spent with the students at Mass, First Holy Communions and First Reconciliation * Greeting the students in the morning * Holiday celebrations, school dances and athletic events * Students coming to my office for candy and stickers from the treasure box for a job well done on an assignment or a task * Students drawing me pictures. I still have a box full of them and I still look at them. They warm my heart! * Listening to the first graders read me a story * Visiting the classroom and watching the teachers interacting with the students * The kids doing snow dances in gym class when they wanted a snow day! It worked a couple of times! * Planning school events with the junior high * Planning new curriculum strategies and brainstorming with the faculty * Receiving the Blue Ribbon
5. I will always be grateful to Father Ron Lewinski for giving me the Opportunity to be principal for 11 years at St. Mary's. Fr. Ron was an excellent mentor and was dedicated to the mission of the school as well as to the faculty, parents, and students. I enjoyed my position as principal and as I have said to many when I walk through the doors of St. Mary Church and school, I feel I am home! I am grateful for all of the parents who gave so much of their time, talents and treasures to the faculty and students! I found the School Advisory Board, the Home and School Association, Athletic volunteers and parents who volunteered for other school activities helped to build a positive family spirit that the school community enjoyed! Without their support and dedication, the school could not have thrived as well as it did!
Deborah Dedeo Principal 1999-2009
Our favorite school tradition is the Daddy Daughter Dance. It focuses on the importance of fathers and daughters having a healthy and strong relationship. The first strong male bond that girls have is with their dads. This event teaches the girls what it means to be treated throughout their entire lives and that is with respect, love, and kindness.
April Joan Labra-Renacia Parent of Current Student
When I attended St. Mary’s School, there were only three classrooms with two or three grade levels in each room. One of the classrooms had a door that led directly into the nun’s living area. One day I had forgotten my lunch, and I was led into the dining room of the nun’s quarters to be fed. I was full of awe to be in their private area. As the years past being with the nuns, I could even race from the church back to school along with Sister Margaret—her long, rosary beads swinging by her side. I felt very special the May I was chosen to crown the Virgin Mary statue near the church.
I loved learning, even though I never excelled in the Palmer method of handwriting. I was privileged to listen to the reading of younger students in the quiet of the coat room. I enjoyed the challenge of diagramming sentences and racing through math problems at the blackboard. I was thrilled the Christmas season, when our class made our own nativity figurines, starting with the pouring of the molds and ending with the baked-on glaze after painting them.
The history of St. Mary’s School goes beyond the fact, that some of us siblings had Sister Superior Justina. She was a much younger nun when she taught our father, Joseph Titus. Our German, Titus immigrants came to the Fremont area before the parish was even formed. We have five generations of our Titus family buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery. The school plays a special part in my ancestral history.
Barbara Titus Lane Class of 1955
I speak collectively from the Class of 1978 as to how we all feel about our beloved grade school that is closing its doors. We were a small school mainly taught by nuns with Sr. Elaine as our principal and Fr. Morrissey as our pastor; who would come into our classroom on a routine basis and talk with us. We have fond memories of such things as Metric Man, Disco Duck, traveling to Springfield (both 7th and 8th grades) for several days, participating in the last day of the year Lakewood Forest Preserve picnic, going to Wiech’s Inn after basketball games, and school dances. We sang at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary during the bicentennial of 1976 and even buried a time capsule in the front of the school the same year that has yet to be unearthed! We all recounted being pulled from class at one time or another to unload lunches from the cars that had pulled in for daily delivery. We would take them into the small kitchen located in the basement of the little church. We would also be asked to sit in the rectory driveway and peel apart fronds for Palm Sunday. Education was the best while there. The teacher’s all cared and it was a close-knit family. We all loved listening to Chris Misik’s mother, Mrs. LaKome played the organ on the loft of the little church. She played with such talent, love and grace that you always felt you in the company of a saint. Our school musicals and plays (under the guidance of Chris LaKome-Misik) were always held on the stage at Fremont School. We can’t forget about Mr. and Mrs. White; our teachers from Ireland who also gave us the best education. Our class is still close to this day.
Sharon (Bell) LoMastro Class of 1978
My fondest memories of St. Mary come from my early years as a student. In Kindergarten, which was in the basement classroom which you entered through the outside steps, I remember the small stools that looked like a thread spool with a cushion on one end. In first grade, Sister Kim Marie, a nun with a genuine smile and kind spirit, passed on her love of reading. Every kid knew of Mrs. Carlson’s tough reputation even before they got to second grade. When you did something wrong, she’d give you the “look” but also had a sly smile joking about her imaginary friend from her childhood. In 3rd grade, while creating a burned edge effect on our Mother’s Day cards, Mrs. Moncelle set off the smoke detector in the then closed off the front porch and that year I was also stung by a hornet while Mrs. Sonza Novera was out sick on our gym day.
But there were difficult times too like in 4th grade when the space shuttle Challenger exploded, and we learned the hard lesson about mortality, loss, and faith. But the hard times didn’t last long as the boys created a rap about Phonics and Sister Mark taught us how to make fudge and caramel. Little did I know that reading the play Cheaper by the Dozen and singing songs from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat would lead me to my career as a teacher of theater and English.
St. Mary teachers made me feel loved and appreciated. They helped me believe in God and in myself. My husband and I were blessed that our three children have been able to attend St. Mary and were able to have a quality Catholic Education to ground them for the rest of their lives. I am forever grateful for the education and experiences that my children and I will carry with us. That little school building will forever hold a very special place in my heart.
Clare (Manning) McConville Class of 1989 and parent of current students
The memories I cherish of my teaching years at St. Mary's will always remain part of my heart!!
Fr. Morrissey offered me my first teaching job after graduating from college. I taught music & theatre & 7th & 8th core classes. Memories of the shows we produced (Oliver, A Christmas Carol & more) and the incredible students who shared their joy of the arts from 1st through 8th grades were joyous.
My mom, Mary LaKome, was organist & hearing her play THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S on the organ will never leave my soul.
But most of all I remember my students. They gave their all to the music & the shows & that was contagious & THEY gave me the start of a long teaching career. I thank & love them all. May they always have music in their lives.
Mary Chris LaKome-Misik Teacher 1973-1981
Some of my favorite memories were made in Mrs. Ellison's first-grade class. It was here where I sparked my love of writing doing with small journal prompts and creative story writing. I always loved sharing with the class. Another first-grade memory was the teddy bear sleepover. We all brought in teddy bears and Mrs. Ellison set them up all over the room after school so in the morning we were all surprised to find the bears doing fun things all around the room! Another was the mock baptism. I got chosen to be the mom and I was so excited! Fr. Ron came in and we even dressed up my doll in my own baptism gown and had a "real" ceremony. I thought it was so cool. We raised butterflies, got conduct candy at the end of the week if we were good, and read with our fourth-grade buddies. First grade at St. Mary's will truly stick with me.
Emma Roberts Class of 2018
Throughout my time at St. Mary's, I have made so many memories, learned so many life lessons, and made many friends. One of my favorite St. Mary's memories is the library. I loved spending time reading books and listening Mrs. Sonza read to us. I would look forward to this class every week.
Another memory from SMA that I have is Spartan Sports Day. This is one of my favorite memories at St. Mary's. I loved how I got to spend time outside playing games and with my friends.
The last memory I would like to share is All Saints Day. This happened in kindergarten, I got dressed up as St. Clare, my sister was Joan of Arc and my brother Ben was Pope Gregory the Great. It was so much fun and by far one of my favorite times at SMA.
Overall my time at St. Mary's was great. I loved all my teachers especially Mrs. Sonza and Mrs. Crotty. I loved our close-knit community.
Kate Roberts Current 7th grader
My time at St. Mary is not something that can be easily summarized. The impact it had on my life in every facet still reaches me to this day. I could tell stories from any year about anyone, but I don't think that would do adequate justice. I've always viewed this school and community of believers as one body, in a similar fashion to the church. The faculty was the head, granting us wisdom that not only encompassed traditional subjects but also taught us how to make decisions and act. The staff were like the feet, always soldiering on and carrying the rest of us forward so we could continue. We the students were the hands, set out into the world to expand our faith and learn of the world as indeed we should. The most important piece, however, was the heart. To have a heart full of faith is to know God and praise what he does by showing the world just what you can do for it. I could never underscore just how important and fundamental the faith instilled in me by this institution has been. In trying times on this difficult earth, I find I often have an advantage over my peers in that I have the genuine belief that everything happens for a purpose. To quote a friend from the university, "You live like even though things aren't okay, they will be no matter what, I'm jealous." To this very day as a Junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign I feel the reach of my strong roots and can barely find a day where there isn't something that can be solved by remembering my faith... my foundation. While that in and of itself might not seem as impressive or important to some, I can guarantee I would not have been interested in a STEM field and I would not currently be studying Chemical and Biomolecular engineering without the fun I had at St. Mary and FCA. My favorite part from an academic perspective was that everything was made fun in an engaging way. This was true to the point I had no idea how much I learned until I realized just how far ahead of the curve I and my class was. Things as silly as a song about coffee when discussing Brazil or random interesting facts that would otherwise be unnecessary inspired me to want to learn. Learning, Loving, Faith. These three words are the source of my strength, and St. Mary was the place that taught me that.
Jonathan Soudan Class of 2012
St. Mary School will always hold a special place in my heart. It was our second home for so many years. All four of our children attended St. Mary School from kindergarten through eighth grade, and my husband and I made lasting friendships through our involvement in school activities. These were some of the happiest times of our lives.
One of my fondest memories of our time at St. Mary was the Pork and Corn Roast. I'll never forget the summer I helped paint the game booths days before delivering our fourth child and worked on game supplies while I was still in the hospital after delivery!
Having the opportunity to teach students at St. Mary from third grade through eighth grade was a true blessing for me, and the faculty members I worked with were some of the finest educators I have had the pleasure to know throughout my teaching career. One memory I have with a co-worker was when I taught in the room adjacent to Eve Carlson. There were two things you did not mention around Eve: butter and snow. My students and I used to love to hang snowflakes and "butter" flies in the windows above her room just to see her reaction!
I have countless fond memories of our time at St. Mary, too many to mention here. Suffice it to say that my heart aches to see her legacy come to an end.
Debbie Stoeckel Teacher 1993-2012, Parent SMA Students 1984-1999
My name is Diana Titus Suhling. My father Joe was the first in our family to attend St. Mary School, in the mid-1920s. His teacher was Sr. Justina. He left school after 5th grade to work on the family farm. I started in 1946, graduated in 1954. Sr. Rita Marie was my 1st. and 2nd. grade teacher. My 7th and 8th-grade teacher was Sr. Justina, the same teacher my Dad had in the mid-1920s. I was followed by 8 siblings, the last graduating in 1974. My oldest daughter went 1965-1973. She had Sr. Rita Marie for 1st & 2nd grade as I had. Second daughter 1967-1975, third daughter 1974-1982. The fourth my son Brad 1977-1985. His 2 daughters were the 1st in our family to have kindergarten at St. Mary. The oldest 1999-2009, the second 2003-2012. In between, a grandson who lived outside IL. until his dad died in 2000 and he began 5th grade at St. Mary 2001-2005. My son Brad was privileged to teach 5th grade at St. Mary 2018-2019. This is my family in total. Dad from mid-1920s to granddaughter 2012. A span of 87 years for the Joe Titus family.
Back to 1946: we had 2 classrooms upstairs adjacent to the living quarters for the nuns. The basement had a classroom, lunchroom, and bathrooms. The 8 grades were divided into 3 classrooms depending on the size of classes. We had no buses, lunch or milk program, no uniforms, science, art or music, and no playground monitors. I loved the mixed grades because you could learn so much from the classes above or below you. My favorite subjects were Math and English. I owe my teachers so much, especially Sr. Justina who showed the love of numbers, which I went on to use in my jobs. I love my St. Mary's.
Diana Suhling Class of 1954
We all have our favorite recollections to share about our school years at St. Mary. Memories I have are about the nuns and teachers, classmates, having more than one grade in a classroom, hot dog day (our only hot lunch), church, funny antics, mission parties, uniforms, processions, and May Crowning. They are all cherished memories for me. This was my school. This was my church where I received the sacraments of baptism, confession, 1st communion, confirmation, and my wedding vows.
I can’t help but smile now as I think about sunny days out on the playground at the “little school”. During noon recess we could hear the bells from the church chime 12 times. I laugh now thinking how a group of little 2nd and 3rd-grade girls would stop in their tracks and race to the Blessed Mother statue located in the flowerbed of the house next to the school as those bells tolled on the hour. I’m sure we all thought we would have a vision of the Virgin Mary just as Bernadette Soubirous, the young French girl from Lourdes had. Well, at least I did.
While in 2nd grade, the holiest and busiest of grades as we prepared to receive sacraments, I proudly sang hymns at church. Our little class performed at St. Mary Seminary for a Christmas show for the nuns and kitchen staff there. I remember that day vividly. I sang my heart out! I was enthusiastic! I was singing for the baby Jesus for his birthday! I was so sure the whole audience enjoyed my performance. I was so proud. They all were smiling at little old me! I was so happy to give them joy! I recall this every year in a Christmas card to my dear friend and classmate, Jeannie Bartels. We have a great laugh today just as the nuns and Mrs. Bartels did that day as I swayed from side to side. Good thing I wasn’t wearing a chapel veil – it would have fallen off my head!
50 years ago, I graduated with 8 other girls and 6 boys in the class of 1969. This class was the only class to spend half a day of school (during 8th grade) at neighboring Fremont Grade School for math, gym, and science. Between the 15 of us, we headed off to four different high schools. No more cornfields next to the school. No calves across the street. No daily mass before school. How life for us would change when we left St. Mary.
I don’t recall saying goodbye to any of my classmates after our graduation Mass. I guess I just assumed we would stay in touch. I look back with great appreciation for our friendships, simple life, and the school’s teaching and country surrounding.
When I travel on Rte. 60 and past Erhart Road, I can’t help but turn my head to have a look at the school and church. I always gaze at the evergreens in the very back of the playground. They are so tall today! In 1969 they were about 6 feet tall they were great screen for those that stole a smoke one afternoon at recess. It makes me smile and brings back so many truly happy memories.
PS. My classmates do stay in touch. They are some of the most important people in my life.
Barbara (Rose) Hertel Swanson Class of 1969
One memory I have from going to grade school at St. Mary, is going up in the attic to help my mom set up and clean up for various events like the Halloween parties, Mardi Gras parties, and auctions. The thing that I think the kids younger than me have really lost from their experience at St. Mary, is that they don’t know the stories about the St. Mary’s ghost and the proper way they should enter the attic. Since most of the teachers I had have now moved on from St. Mary, the younger kids have not gotten to hear the stories and appreciate how long St. Mary school has been in Mundelein. The older part of the school building has been there since 1896 and at the time, nuns were the teachers and they lived in the attic. When I was at St. Mary as a student, every student knew that if they were to enter the attic, they were to knock three times to let the ghost know that they were coming up. My best friend, Eileen, and I would always help our mom’s set up and clean up various events and since the decorations for these events were stored in the attic we always remembered to knock 3 times before going up together and we never went through the small door to the right of first room because we were told that the ghost lived in that room. St. Mary has given me so many memories over the years. It’s where I grew up and made my best friend.
Our three children attended SMS from K-8. We all have very fond memories of the years the kids were at St. Mary School. The school was a loving, happy, safe, structured, prayerful, challenging, religious and highly educational place for our children to receive their formative education. Fr. Ron was the pastor the entire time. He was a loving, pious, and dedicated part of their Catholic Education. They had many loving and challenging classroom teachers. Their "special" area teachers, including Mrs. Crotty, Mrs. Sonza-Novera and Mrs. Floyd were just the icing on the cake. They truly added so much joy to their education. Our children were very positively affected by their years at St. Mary School. Thank God for the blessing of SMS in our family's life!
Amy Thompson Parent of students 1999-2011
I have very fond memories of my time at St. Mary’s. One thing that sticks out to me is the involvement the 8th graders had putting on the stations of the cross every year. I remember being honored to be a part of it. Sounds simple, but really paints an accurate picture of what St. Mary’s is/was. A place to involve kids in a way that teaches them about the Catholic faith and set them up for success in their life journey.
Lauren Thompson Class of 2007
Some of my earliest memories come from a small building on Erhart Road. Memories of piling into the back of the family’s old van to head there with my four older siblings, of watching them navigate the untouchable older years of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade – and wanting to be adult as they were, when I reached that point. Memories of basketball games in a gym with a tiled floor and no three-point line, looking to my dad for guidance as he walked the sidelines, coaching.
St. Mary of the Annunciation, at least in large part, was where I grew up. I distinctly remember the first book I learned to read without help, Tiger is a Scaredy Cat – still a classic, by the way. I think fondly on the Three Musketeers award that Michael Stearns, Jude Krauss, and I won in kindergarten for being all but inseparable. It’s odd, but when the three of us get together as college graduates, what we reminisce on is those younger years.
Yet, even though those days are in the past, St. Mary will always hold memories. After leaving, I’ve returned to teach Vacation Bible School, to read at Mass, and to donate books. I’ve sought former teachers for their perspective on a life of study. And that’s the point: even after leaving, you could always come back. For that, for all of the above, and more, I am grateful for that little place on Erhart Road.
Michael Hendricks Student 2001-2008
In 1994 when my husband and I were newly married and did not yet have children, we began working with Mike and Debbie Stoeckel to run the 5th through 8th-grade youth group, The Supersonic Saints. The youth group had a variety of activities for children of the parish, and we were assisted by high school students who served as peer ministers. Most of the children in the youth group were St. Mary’s School students and our experience working with these children made us realize that we wanted our children to go to this school because of the values being taught and the close-knit community feel.
When our oldest daughter was entering kindergarten, there were only 7 openings for new families and about 30 families who wanted those spots. We had to go through an interview process to determine whether our children would be admitted to the school. I was flooded with relief and joy when we received the acceptance letter, knowing that our children would grow up as part of this wonderful little school.
I would like to especially recognize the contribution that Mrs. Sonza-Novera has made to the school. She has served the school for over 30 years in so many roles including PE teacher, computer teacher, librarian, keyboarding teacher, athletic director, health teacher, coach, kiss and go, attendant, pick up line announcer, before school caregiver, technology guru, talent show coordinator, 8th grade talent show dance choreographer, shoe tie-er, candy giver, repair seamstress, science fair project assistant, altar server, hair stylist, Eucharistic minister, and Christian role model.
Ann Galuska Parent of Students 2001-Present
One of my favorite memories from St. Mary's was the Buddy System. When I was in first grade, I had a sixth-grade buddy whom I admired and adored. I remember talking my buddy's ear off every Wednesday as we walked the long walk to the Big Church together. I was also thrilled to show her every other week the new book that I was reading. I thought that sixth graders were just so cool, and I couldn't wait until I could be a sixth-grade buddy. I am so thankful that St. Mary's gave me so many wonderful role models, as well as the opportunity to be a role model for others!
Katie Galuska Class of 2011
When I think of memories from my time at St. Mary, here are some that come to mind, one for every year.
Mrs. Dedeo always used to dress up as a witch for Halloween. One year, as my sisters and I were walking into school, she was greeting us, and the spiders from her hat accidentally got stuck in my hair.
In first grade, after realizing I have a very long tongue, I decided to do the talent show act “Tongue Contortions.”
In second grade, the power went out just before a Christmas play dress rehearsal. While my class was singing the words “Lord, you have all power,” the power came back on.
The first time my family met Ms. Sullivan, she did a dance and said, “Principals can have fun, too!”
In 4th grade, my friends and I retaught Miss Hazard how to swing.
One time Fr. Nate came into my 5th-grade class, taught us a lesson, quizzed us, and handed out $2 bills as prizes for students who answered questions correctly.
Mary Margaret Galuska Class of 2015
Back when St Mary was a parish K-8 school, Mrs. Crotty had all her 8th-grade students create a pastiche, a copy of a well-known work of art. It was always amazing to see what type of talent she could pull out of her students. I am very happy that my oldest daughter was able to experience this impressive project.
Steve Galuska Parent of Students 2001-Present
I remember that every year we would have a May Crowning, where the second graders dressed up in their First Communion outfits and lead the procession in and the fifth graders crowned Mary and Jesus. I remember that everyone came together for this exciting day to honor our patron saint. We would all join in singing together and one chosen boy would crown Jesus and one chosen girl would crown Mary. It was beautiful to see everyone so excited to honor Mary.
Theresa Galuska 2009-2015
I fondly remember learning from the cursive queen, Ms. Carlson. Practicing, again and again, the same movements to get the hang of cursive. I remember the 'caught you being good' 'random acts of kindness' stickers given when you helped the teacher clean something up without being asked. I remember drawing leaves under the two big trees in front with Mrs. Crotty. I also remember drawing a monk with stained-glass, cross-hatched eyes in our class on Modigliani; this was one of my first experiences with being creative myself. I remember playing cops and robbers on the big parking lot and the big tree by the outdoor basketball hoop. I remember when my sister Jessica's class performed Thriller at an all-school assembly. I remember playing basketball with all my buddies under Coach Ed Hendricks and Mr. Markiewicz. I remember Mr. Lesinski's Life Lesson lectures and Ms. Dedeo's cowboy hat. I remember the mobile structure that housed us in 4th and 5th grade. I remember the buzz around the new church being built and learning about how the tabernacle is meant to look like a tent, a la the Old Testament, with images from the book of Revelations in relief. I remember listening to Christian rock music with Mrs. Stoeckel and learning to multiply with Mrs. Hehr. I remember learning to type and learning Spanish with Mrs. Sonza-Novera, practicing again and again over the years. I remember the relay races and flip cups and parachute in gym class with Mrs. Floyd. And I remember Fr. Ron stopping by to say hello to the class.
Larry Bilello Student 1998-2006
Let me start by saying that I am completely biased when it comes to St. Mary School. I absolutely loved working and volunteering there. When I started, the principal was Sr. Mary Paul Sislar. There were still two nuns on staff as teachers. The classes were very large – up to 28 children. I had been directing a volunteer for the art program at Santa Maria del Popolo and personally taught art to the junior high. Now I would be teaching little ones too. My first memory involved the kindergarten class. I wanted to give the children a fun experience for our first lesson, so their project was Shaving Cream Rainbows. Suffice it to say that it involved shaving cream and food coloring. Imagine the chaos that twenty-eight five-year-olds can make with shaving cream and food coloring. I looked over a room full of terribly messy students all needing a wash up at the same exact moment. However, the workroom sink was waist high. I had to lift each child to the sink and help wash their hands. I set the child down and picked up the next one. Meanwhile, EVERY child whose hands I washed went back out into the room and started playing in the mess again. The children never stopped coming into the room to wash up. Eventually, I caught on to their scheme, but by then the seventh grade showed up for their class. The teacher, Stephanie Dahl, took one look at the pandemonium and said, with emphasis, “Mrs. Crotty, we will skip art class today, and instead, we will help with crowd control and clean up.” It was my first encounter with a St. Mary angel.
Fast forward ten years or so, when the principal, Mrs. Deborah Dedeo, came into my class for observation. It is important to note that she was dressed in a particularly nice suit. I had learned to employ volunteer art parents/guardians to help with most classes (see the previous story), but on this day I was alone. The class was kindergarten, and the project was Shaving Cream Rainbows. Mrs. Dedeo said, “Is there anything I can do to help?” You should have seen her face when I told her she could dole out dollops of shave cream while I followed adding drops of food color in various combinations. Yes, she was another angel.
My biggest helper was a colleague, Mrs. Donna Sonza-Novera. Some might say she was my partner in crime, but she was a true angel. I challenged my junior high students to do marvelous things in art including authentic replicas of African tribal masks and to-scale pastiches of famous artworks. This entailed many late nights involving glue guns, mat cutting and mounting, and other incredibly complicated maneuvers to present the students’ hard work in spectacular fashion.
There were spectacular fine arts fairs with band recitals; artwork displays; classroom projects; computer graphs, brochures, and graphic art; physical education demonstrations including dances and tinkling. One year we had the children submit renderings of the GOOGLE logo for a national contest and had three students’ work make it to the nationals. An eighth-grade life-sized sarcophagus project was displayed at the Art Institute in Chicago. We had magnificent seasonal musicals directed by Mrs. Knuth, and an original play written by music teacher, George Kichinko ‘s wife, Pat. All with student artwork adorning the stage. And those eighth-grade dance programs choreographed by former students: Thriller with zombie make-up by Brendan Boston of future New York stage fame, The Super Bowl Shuffle with real Bears uniforms, music from Grease, and the Bollywood Jai Ho! Mrs. Stoeckel staged some grand plays with many of my art creations included. Add to these artistic endeavors Talent Shows that ran so long we had to add time to the end of the day just to present all.
There were field trips to some fascinating places. At the Field Museum in Chicago the whole group were able to paint in the background of several canvasses that a professional had set up to paint the dinosaur, Sue, which Mayor Daley planned to give to visiting dignitaries. I was so proud to show how this little school in the middle of the corn fields with cows across the street could have student work that far above the norm. Once, when the eighth grade displayed their personal designed crucifixes in the Narthex for the parish to admire, Fr. Ron Lewinski said we should go into business because so many asked if they were for sale. That’s how good our students were – always rising to the challenge and above!
When the faculty committed to striving for a Blue-Ribbon status, St. Mary School could not have shone brighter. Every class was deep into progressive, forward thinking. Our computer classes were so well thought of that when students went to high school, they were allowed to comp out of computer class if they came from St. Mary.
I remember having some of the most beautiful school liturgies. Our May Crowning prayer service was reverent and memorable. The second-grade communicants would be dressed in their First Communion finery, and our crowners and their court were so devout. Fr. Nate had the most glorious Marian alb that the children loved to admire. There were particularly meaningful Station of the Cross services. For many years, we had Living Stations using eighth graders as the cast of the passion. The last few years the children participated in an inclusive service in the Little Church that included visuals the children would bring to the altar and eyewitness perspective prayers. There were classroom processions, student lectors and cantors, student choirs, and student bell choirs. There was nothing like their young voices lifted in song as it resonated in the Little Church rafters. Our Christian identity was strong and active. When a name landed on the children’s mass special intentions, people felt the power of their young prayers.
Then of course, there are the ghost stories. It was a hot, muggy day in August. Another teacher, Mrs. Stoeckel, her daughter Cathy, Kathryn Sonza-Novera, and I were painting the hallway outside of the art and library classrooms. We had paper towels taped to the wall to dab our brushes and sponges. All of a sudden, an icy wind blew through the hallway. It was incredibly cold. Mrs. Stoeckel and her daughter ran through the school trying to figure out where the cold air was coming from. In those days, we didn’t even have window air conditioners, and it was still, hot, and muggy outside. The paper towels literally flapped in the air. We realized we could see our breath! We were almost done, and everyone left but me. It was so cold it hurt my hand to hold the paint brush. I started to cry and shouted out loud, “Whatever this is, please stop! I have to finish today, and I will be out of here!” Instantly, the paper towels went flat against the wall. The temperature was once again super-hot and muggy. I finished quickly, and quietly said, “Thank you, very much, I’ll be going now.” And promptly fled the spooky scene.
Angels, ghosts, definitely spirits linger in the halls of St. Mary. Where evil did not abide, but love, compassion, friendship, reverence, and the quest for knowledge did thrive. It’s an excellent legacy that I am so proud to have been a small part.
Kristina Crotty Art Teacher 1995-2015
We are so blessed to have been part of many of the meaningful traditions at St. Mary of the Annunciation school. Like a family shares everything, we have also shared so much at SMA. We prayed together, laughed together and cried together. We learned, we grew, and now we move on. St. Mary of the Annunciation School will always hold a special place in our hearts. St. Mary of the Annunciation…pray for us.
Laura Van Wiltenburg & Family
St. Mary School Historical Timeline
Earliest reference of a parish school.
St. Mary Pastor Fr. Joseph Rohde establishes St. Mary School and employs the Sisters of St. Francis from Milwaukee as the first teachers.
The Sisters of the Sacred Heart from Mokena, Illinois, take over the staffing of the school.
Construction begins on a new brick school building and convent at the behest of George Cardinal Mundelein costing $20,000.
Cardinal Mundelein dedicates the school building and celebrates the sacrament of Confirmation.
St. Mary’s Business College graduates its first class.
The Archdiocese of Chicago purchases the recently closed Fremont school building located at the intersection of Route 60 and Fremont Center Road for the expansion of St. Mary’s growing school.
St. Mary’s parish celebrates its centennial with a jubilee mass celebrated by Albert Cardinal Meyer and attended by many including Sister Hilaria, one of the first teachers at the school.
Fr. James Morrissey establishes the first school board, purchases the former Dorfler home (now Gabriel House) and converts the former convent space in the school to additional classrooms.
Diantha Hall is completed and dedicated.
Two mobile units are added to the school to accommodate the growing enrollment.
St. Mary School celebrates its 100th anniversary.
St. Mary receives the National Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education for excellence in education.
Frassati Catholic Academy opens as the first middle school in the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Catholic Consortium of Lake Country is established.
The operation and management of St. Mary School shifts from the parish to the Archdiocese of Chicago due to the need for increased funding.
St. Mary and Transfiguration School names are retired as the Catholic Consortium of Lake County is rebranded Frassati Catholic Academy Elementary and Middle School.o.
Frassati Catholic Academy consolidates into one campus at Transfiguration parish.