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Saints Cyril and Methodius parish in Lemont celebrates Catholic School Week, Blue Ribbon Award (January 31, 2020)

Jesse Wright
January 31, 2020

Parents and students of Saints Cyril and Methodius School in Lemont turned out Friday morning for a special Mass in honor of Catholic Schools Week.

The annual week of celebration for the parochial school system was extra special this year as the school is also recognized as also a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

Jim Rigg, the superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago, said only about 50 private schools nationwide achieve Blue Ribbon status in any given year. Nationally, only 9,000 schools are recognized. With the award, the district gets a blue flag to fly for a year.

The Department of Education’s states on its website the Blue Ribbon flag is a symbol of exemplary teaching and learning and recognizes “schools demonstrating that all students can achieve to high levels.” 

“This award is very prestigious,” Rigg said. “This came about because of the hard work of the school and the community."

Rigg said the award is the result of talented school staff as well as a dedicated community. The Lemont school is among seven Catholic schools in the Chicago area receiving the recognition.

Principal Shirley Tkachuk, who has been with the school for 14 of its 135 years, she said she is proud of the distinction.

“Oh, my gosh, it shows the dedication and the support of the entire school community,” she said. “It’s a great, great honor.”

Besides school and community members, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski attended the special Mass. Lipinski said he attended parochial schools until college and said his Catholic foundation gave him his latter success.

“That gave me the ability to do everything I’ve done since then,” he said. 

After the ceremony, he said parochial schools are a valuable part of the community. 

“I think it’s important to encourage and honor Catholic schools,” Lipinski said. “It’s important to show appreciation for all the teachers and administrators, and the contribution they’ve made to the country.”

The Rev. Tom Koys said Catholic schools add a specific element to education that other schools do not offer. 

“Our Catholic education is something to hold onto, to appreciate the deeper mysteries of life,” he said. “I remember when I was a boy, I had two favorite subjects, one was religion. The other was lunch.”

Tkachuk said she believes her school earned its Blue Ribbon recognition due to the staff’s dedication to the students and, she said, she hopes to continue a tradition of excellence.

“I’m very proud we’re here to find things to keep building on,” she said.

The school has 210 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Catholic schools week, which kicked off Jan. 25, started in 1974 as a way to celebrate Catholic education, according to the archdiocese.