The 1970’s witnessed changes in all three of the Catholic High Schools in Peoria. Longer hair for the boys and shorter skirts for the girls mirrored what was happening in the culture at large. Both Bergan and the Academy and Spalding began coed classes. In 1973 the Academy and Spalding consolidated. As the 1980’s began, the high school years of the last of the baby-boomers faded into history. Peoria’s three Catholic high schools were also feeling the strain of the many changes in the culture and the Church. The diocese seated a steering committee that summer and to study the possibility of a high school consolidation in Peoria. The group proposed consolidation and recommended prompt action.
The March 13, 1988 edition of the Catholic Post carried the story of the birth of the fifth Catholic high school in Peoria. As yet unnamed, the school would open for the 1988-89 school year. For the first year, both campuses would be used. Then the north side location would be home for the new school.
On May 1, 1988, the diocese announced the new name: Peoria Notre Dame High School. The arduous task of consolidation began. Catholic secondary education was about to begin a new chapter marked by steady enrollments, financial stability and a growing sense of Catholic Identity. The glorious tribute to the sacrificial support of Catholic secondary education that Bishop O’Rourke spoke of had survived a Church renewal, a cultural revolution, and the end of the baby boom. Preparing young people for their future as only a Catholic high school can do would continue.
Educators across America responded to the digital revolution. In 1995, construction began on a Computer Center at Peoria Notre Dame. Generous friends and alumni of Catholic secondary education stepped up to finance the center named for the late Robert J. Cleary, a popular teacher and principal at Bergan High School, and 1956 graduate of Spalding Institute. In 1998 the Notre Dame web site premiered on the World Wide Web. New faculty and staff were recruited. New courses followed and the digital revolution became a part of Notre Dame’s curriculum.
As Bishop Jenky took leadership of the Diocese of Peoria, Peoria Notre Dame sought to expand with the construction of three new state-of-the-art science labs. On May 9, 2003, Bishop Jenky presided over the groundbreaking for the new science classrooms.
The digital revolution ushered in a new view of education. The assembly line notion of education in which students sat passively while teachers delivered content gave way to student-driven learning in a more interactive class setting. In 2010, Notre Dame became a one-to-one school with each student using his or her own laptop.
This has been a little bit of our story—the part about buildings and bishops and the people who set the stage for the cast of over 17,000 alums who have followed for a century and a half. Generations of young people most of who have yet to be born will want to attend our classes, join our clubs and play on our teams. They will be part of the next 17,000 alums that we are expecting over the next century. These are some of the dreams and deeds that have and continue to shape who we have been and who we are becoming as we prepare to offer the blessing of a Catholic secondary education to future generations.
This is our school and our 150 years of struggle for a better world. It’s spiritual and social; it’s about scholastics and sports. But most of all, it is and always will be a story of our labor of love—our genuine commitment to Jesus Christ and the good of our children, past, present, and future—In His Name.