St. Malachy School, Rantoul opens centennial year Sept. 5-6

Photo Caption: The present St. Malachy School was dedicated in 1962. Two expansions have added classrooms, an early childhood learning center, computer and science labs, library, music room and office space.

By: By Jennifer Willems

RANTOUL — Students, alumni and parishioners will have more than one reason to cheer during homecoming weekend at St. Malachy School here. In addition to rooting for the Tigers, they will be launching a celebration of 100 years of Catholic school education in this Champaign County community.

The game starts at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 5, at the Knights of Columbus Baseball Field. Alumni may reconnect with old friends at the Knights of Columbus Club afterward.

The celebration continues on Saturday, Sept. 6, with a Mass at 4 p.m. in the church, 311 E. Grove Ave. Father Joseph Donton, pastor, will be the principal celebrant and former pastors have been invited to concelebrate. Special guests will be the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, who have taught in the school throughout its history.

After Mass, there will be a social gathering on school grounds until 9 p.m., with food provided by the Knights of Columbus, cake and entertainment. Tours of the school will also be available. Those who attend are asked to bring their lawn chairs, stories and memories.

There is no charge, but free-will donations will be accepted.

On Monday, Sept. 8, grandparents will join their students for Mass at 10:30 a.m. and stay for lunch. During the afternoon the children will engage in a variety of activities to learn about the history of the school and the Rantoul area. Each of them will have an opportunity to contribute something to a time capsule to tell students in the future what life is like in 2014, what they do as students and what their hobbies are.

Other opportunities to mark the centennial will come during the fall festival on Oct. 12; Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 25-31, 2015; and the annual auction, “That’s Amore,” on Feb. 14. The closing Mass is planned for May 2.
The theme for the centennial year is “Remembering Our Past . . . Embracing Our Future.”

The vision, faith and generosity of Catherine Donovan and 98 families from St. Malachy Parish are credited with making a Catholic school possible in Rantoul. With their investment Father Patrick H. Durkin purchased the property at Grove and High Street and his successor, Father William J. Drummy oversaw construction.

Donovan Memorial School, which enrolled students in grade school and high school, opened on Sept. 8, 1914. Their instruction was entrusted to the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois.

The high school was discontinued in 1928, but the grade school continued to grow. Classrooms were added in 1951, and the top floor of the school was remodeled from living quarters for the Dominicans to more classroom space in 1955. The Sisters were relocated to the current convent at 304 E. Belle Ave.

A new school with eight classrooms, a library, gym and kitchen was dedicated in 1962 and the name of the school was changed to St. Malachy, in honor of the parish’s patron saint.

Through the leadership of Father Stanley J. Malinowski, a $1.3 million expansion provided a kindergarten, computer lab, enlarged library, music room, commons and kitchen area, and community room in 1991.

With the $2.3 million raised through the “Opening New Doors” capital campaign in 2003, a new gym was built and the old gym was renovated to create an early childhood learning center, science/art lab, an enlarged computer lab, music room and office space. An elevator was also added and the Grove Street entrance was reconstructed to allow for handicapped accessibility.

More than 1,400 students have graduated from the elementary education program. Among them are Margaret (Quinlan) Nolan and Rita (Molloy) Shelhouse, who graduated in 1936 and continue to cheer on the school and parish, according to centennial organizers.

The current enrollment at St. Malachy School is 173. The principal is James Flaherty.

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