"Our education is not meant to turn the children out small and finished, but seriously begun on a wide basis." - Mother Janet Erskine Stuart
The goal of spiritual life at Sacred Heart is to inspire our students, families, faculty, and staff to search for a relationship with God. Realizing that we can best find God within a community, we walk together as we question and seek answers that can help us grow in a personal and active faith that is relevant in today’s world.
The foundation for religious life of the Sacred Heart community is the charism (the inspirational purpose and gift to share with the world) of the Religious of the Sacred Heart and the Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart education. The essence of Sacred Heart education at Sheridan Road is the opportunity to fully integrate the Goals and Criteria into our daily lives. We want our students to be aware of God’s presence, to experience the sacred all around them, to be educated and engaged people of faith, to be committed to service, to value relationships and our school’s heritage, and to recognize their personal growth and development.
Community members and neighbors from nearby places of worship also contribute to the development of spiritual life and religious formation at Sheridan Road through a variety of experiences. Adults within our school community provide a strong example for our students through the lived example of their personal faith journeys and individual prayer lives.
Daily Prayers and Chapels
Each school day begins in homeroom with all students and adults engaging in espacio (daily practice of creating space for silence and reflection) and morning prayer guided by the Daily Prayer Binder, which is created for each school division by the Campus Ministry team. Daily prayer includes an introduction to a feast or celebration of the day (frequently highlighting other faith traditions), scripture, intentions, and formal prayers of the Church. Students may lead prayer or contribute in other age-appropriate ways. Every six days, each school division gathers in the Chapel for an experience of prayer. Chapel services weave together catechesis, formation in the five Sacred Heart Goals, and prayer incorporating moments to reflect on service, community, and leadership.
Larger Community Celebrations
Throughout the academic year the whole school community gathers in a variety of configurations to celebrate Mass, particularly on Roman Catholic holy days of obligation and feast days special to Sacred Heart Schools. Each grade level takes leadership for a Mass, which includes writing reflections or intentions, and ministering to the community at the celebration. At most of our all-school Masses, the senior kindergarten and 1st grade students are dismissed after the reading of the Gospel to “Break Open the Word.” This is an age-appropriate exploration of the scripture which gives a them an opportunity to ask questions and better understand the stories. It is a faith formation method rooted in the experience of catechumens in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
A Catholic School for Children of All Faiths
Sacred Heart Schools on Sheridan Road strive to be inclusive of the faiths of all students. This commitment is reflected in the way we celebrate daily morning prayer and integrated into weekly chapels, assemblies, monthly Masses, the all-school Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, and annual Prayer Service for Christian Unity,
Our religion curriculum attends to the diversity of our students. Our 4th grade students have participated in Poetry Pals for over a decade and the 7th-grade religion curriculum focuses on the comparative study of world religions.
Sheridan Road has strong relationships with the Ismaili Jamatkhana (Center) and Emanuel Congregation in our neighborhood. Members of the Muslim community share their religion with our students by welcoming them at the Jamatkhana and broadening our students’ knowledge of the religion of Islam. The Rabbi and Cantor invite our students each year to the synagogue where they engage our students in learning about the Jewish faith. Leaders from these communities participate in our chapels, Interfaith prayer services, the annual Justice Day, and other all school gatherings.
Sacraments: Preparation and Celebration
Preparation for the Roman Catholic Sacraments of Reconciliation and First Eucharist takes place during 2nd grade through a number of events to which all are invited. Sacramental preparation is part of the religion curriculum and is anchored in the lessons of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. All of the children are encouraged to share more about their families’ religious tradition and deepen their understanding of faith. Each child writes an “I Believe” statement and creates a personalized banner illustrating this belief with the guidance and support of their families. We hope these reflective projects spark family conversations and provide an opportunity for children the child to explore and begin to define their personal beliefs.
Families of all faiths are invited to an Interfaith Roundtable conversation, a Lenten prayer service with their child, and a retreat day for children and parents, which concludes with Mass together at St. Gertrude Catholic Church. During First Reconciliation, all 2nd grade students attend a special prayer service. While Roman Catholic children celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with individual confession, students of all other faiths participate in a discussion on what forgiveness looks like in other traditions and in each of our lives. It is our hope that each Sacred Heart family feels welcome in these celebrations.
Each Lenten season the Sacrament of Reconciliation is celebrated in grade-level gatherings. After a communal prayer service, Roman Catholic students in grades 3-8 are invited to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession).
Preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation is a two-year process which begins in 6th grade, for those who chose to participate. The whole-family process incorporates monthly Sunday Masses for 6th and 7th grades, and uses a lectionary-based catechesis, sponsor conversations, classroom work, as well as individual preparation. The sacrament is celebrated in the Spring of 7th grade at St. Gertrude Church. Prior to the celebration, 7th grade Confirmation candidates and their parents/sponsors participate in a half-day retreat.
Middle School Retreats
In addition to retreats for students preparing for the Sacraments of First Eucharist and Confirmation, all Middle School students participate in an annual retreat.
The 6th grade retreat is an experience of service-learning in the Spring and is focused on participation in the Justice Tuesdays morning service program during 7th and 8th grade. Students choose a social justice theme, learn about the issue from our community service partners, engage in a service project related to that issue, visit one of our service sites, and reflect on their experiences.
The 7th grade experiences a two-part retreat, underscoring their study of Religions of the World, that features site visits to worship spaces outside the Roman Catholic tradition. In the Fall, the visits focus on Hinduism/Eastern Religions and in the Spring, Judaism/Islam/Orthodox Christianity. Both excursions are followed by individual and group reflection.
The 8th grade participates in an overnight class retreat focused on Goal V: Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom, as they consider their leadership role in the school and their future goals.
Sacred Heart Traditions
Rich traditions from the long history of Sacred Heart education are introduced to the children in senior kindergarten and each year the students grow in depth and knowledge of what it truly means to be part of the Sacred Heart network of schools. The traditions cherished at Sheridan Road today include bringing lambs to the Crèche during Advent and receiving an international passport at Graduation. Also unique to Sheridan Road are the Senior Kindergarten Nativity play, Christmas hot dog lunch, Justice Day, and commissioning our 8th graders as leaders of our school community.
Faculty and Staff Spiritual Development
The faculty and staff gather almost every year for a retreat focused on the Goal for the year. When possible, the gathering also includes the two other Sacred Heart schools in the Chicago area (Josephinum Academy and Woodlands Academy). Faculty and Staff also are invited to participate in a Busy Person’s Retreat each year. Rooted in St. Madeleine Sophie Barat's ideal of being "Saints Savants" (holy educators), this retreat provides an opportunity to reflect deeply on the challenge Sacred Heart educators have to cultivate transformation in the lives of their students and at the same time foster in themselves a delicate attentiveness to the presence of God. The Busy Person’s Retreat is made in the midst of the school week, scheduled around each individual retreatant’s free periods in order to provide an opportunity for prayer, reflection, and spiritual direction in the midst of school activities.