JOLIET – Joliet Catholic Academy paid homage to its history while starting a new tradition Thursday with a dedication ceremony for its new Heritage Quad, featuring a replica of the iconic Victory Light.
The quad includes walls paying tribute to the three schools that became Joliet Catholic Academy. It provides a new gathering place for students and alumni. And, it brings back the Victory Light, which has survived as a symbol for the school, but now is back for real.
“It’s a great reproduction,” said the Rev. Bob Colaresi, a member of the JCA Board of Members who was a principal at the old Joliet Catholic High School on Broadway Street, where the Victory Light still stands but no longer is used to mark student achievements.
“The physicality of a symbol means everything,” Colaresi said of the new Victory Light.
The Victory Light in a new form, showing the old Victory Light but adding a halo on top to combine the traditions of both Joliet Catholic High School and St. Francis Academy, has been used as a symbol for Joliet Catholic Academy since the schools were combined in 1990.
But there has not been an actual Victory Light structure on the Joliet Catholic Academy campus on Larkin Avenue until now.
The quad has been in place since the fall but in an unfinished state. It’s still unfinished, Principal Jeffrey Budz told more than 100 people gathered for the dedication ceremony.
Budz said statues of St. Francis and Our Lady of Mount Carmel will complete the quad.
The statues will arrive in time to be blessed at the Mass held when school opens again in late summer, he said.
It’s already been rewarding to see the Heritage Quad in use, Budz said.
“After graduation this year, this place was packed with people taking photos,” he said. “It was a nice, celebratory day.”
Alumni have been stopping on school days, too, to spend time at Heritage Quad and take photographs, fulfilling one of the purposes of the project.
“It’s for the tradition,” Budz said. “Obviously, it’s for the parents and the alumni. But it’s for the kids, too.”
The Heritage Quad tells the stories of the three schools: La Salle High School, which became Joliet Catholic High School and St. Francis Academy.
Budz said prospective students and their parents already are being taken to the quad during visits to get a sense of Joliet Catholic Academy’s history.
Alumni Jeff Ward, class of 1995, had his 20th year class reunion at Heritage Quad in September.
“It was very nice,” Ward said. “That’s why they wanted to build it, so it could be utilized.”
Heritage Quad was part of a $1.2 million capital campaign that included some very practical needs as well – new windows, security cameras, and the first air-conditioning units at the school.
John Horn, director of development, said another capital campaign is under way to complete window replacement and put air conditioning in all the classrooms.
The quad was seen as a way to create more of a campus feel to the school, while also paying tribute to the Joliet Catholic Academy tradition, Horn said.
“It’s nice to have our alumni come back and use this, and many have used it already,” he said. “That’s why we did this. We did it to honor our alumni who built the traditions and made this school what it is today.”
The Victory Light was turned on Thursday night by Max Ziesmer, who turned the Victory Light off for the last time in June 1990, when it had been lit for the baseball team’s second-place finish in the state tournament.