New web video series showcases 150 years of Catholic education

Photo Caption: The title graphic of the six-part series on the history and future of Catholic secondary education in Peoria. View the series here.

By: By Tom Dermody

While about 40 years of age separate Tim Irwin and Nic Wilson, the combined talents of the Peoria Notre Dame teacher and former student mean that generations to come have a new way to appreciate the 150-year story of Catholic secondary education in the Peoria area.

“In His Name” is a six-episode video series produced over the past year chiefly by Irwin, chairman of the theology department at Peoria Notre Dame, and Wilson, a 2013 graduate who is now a seminarian for the Diocese of Peoria.

The series was screened for the first time on Aug. 31 at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria during a reception that followed the culminating Mass marking the Catholic education milestone. (An album of photos from the Mass and reception may be viewed on The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook.) A link to “In His Name” is prominently featured on the school’s website, peorianotredame.com.

“I’ve made videos before, but I’m kind of a dinosaur,” said Irwin, who has taught at Peoria Notre Dame for 33 years and was the project’s chief researcher, writer, producer, and narrator. But he had seen a few short videos produced by Wilson, and “I knew he’d have a talent for this.”

Wilson told The Catholic Post he put at least 40 hours of editing work into the series, but said there was no need for an “extra credit” reward.

“I love Peoria Notre Dame High School, and its faculty have given so much to me that I looked at this video as a little way to show my gratitude for the years of guidance and religious formation that I received,” said Wilson in an email from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minn.

Because Irwin and Wilson did all the heavy lifting, viewers will find the story of 150 years of Catholic education easy to grasp.

TOLD IN SIX SHORT SEGMENTS
Aside from brief introductory and concluding segments, the series is divided into six episodes ranging in duration from about six to 10 minutes as follows:

Chapter 1 — The Academy of St. Joseph, a short-lived finishing school for the daughters of wealthy Catholic businessmen established in 1863 by seven pioneering Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

Chapter 2 — The Academy of Our Lady, a Catholic high school for girls located on the corner of Madison and Eaton (later renamed Bryan Street). A new, four-story building was opened in 1874.

Chapter 3 — Spalding Institute, a Catholic high school for young men established in 1898 across Madison Street from the Academy of Our Lady.

Chapter 4 — Bergan High School, a third Catholic high school for the city that opened in 1963.

Chapter 5 — Peoria Notre Dame, resulting from the 1988 merger of the Academy of Our Lady/Spalding Institute and Bergan.

Chapter 6 — The New Notre Dame, detailing plans for a new campus being built adjacent to Resurrection Cemetery in Peoria to serve the next century of Catholic secondary education students.

While titled for the various high school identities that comprise Peoria Notre Dame’s history and future, the chapters give background well beyond bricks and mortar.

Irwin’s script weaves in historic milestones and cultural trends that had major impacts on Catholic education, including the Civil War, 19th century immigration, the Great Depression, the Baby Boom, Vatican II, the cultural upheavals of the 1960s, and the present digital revolution.

Viewers are also introduced to personalities that loom large in the story of local Catholic education, including diocesan bishops, leaders of supporting religious communities, and benefactors. Many of these historic figures are brought to life by familiar voices from present-day Peoria Notre Dame.

Principal Charlie Roy, for example, is the voice of Bishop John Lancaster Spalding, the Diocese of Peoria’s first bishop and nationally known supporter of Catholic education. Literature teacher Kathy Svoboda reads quotes drawn from letters penned by Sister M. Assissium, a local superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, chronicling the founding of the Academy of Our Lady.

“I learned quite a bit about PND from this project,” said Wilson, who in addition to top-notch graphics work also provides the voiceover for Pope John XXIII. “I would think to myself as I became familiar with great men such as Spalding, Schlarman, Bergan, and Fulton Sheen, ‘Wow, this is really my diocese!’ It was beautiful for me to see the legacy of Catholic tradition, to see in our history the response of heroes of our diocese to the call to know, to love, and to serve God.”

THE STORY CONTINUES
Irwin’s script concludes with an acknowledgement that, after a century and a half and 17,000 alums, “the story doesn’t end here.”

“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,” reads Irwin.

“This is our school and our 150 years of struggle for a better world,” he continued. 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.”

“Labor of love” is also an appropriate way to describe the video project. Irwin credited Msgr. Mark Merdian, president of Peoria Notre Dame, for being a “driving force” behind its production.

While “In His Name” is accessible on Peoria Notre Dame’s website, the school may eventually release it as a DVD. How else it may be shared is still being determined.

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