St. Athanasius was named for a Greek scholar and Bishop who is one of the most celebrated Doctors of the Church.
In 1921, a small, devoted Catholic community united and founded a new spiritual home in beautiful north Evanston. This was the beginning of St. Athanasius parish. Rev. Thomas J. Murphy, pastor, organized the school and church along with its vibrant parishioners. Within three years, volunteers established the parish’s boundaries, identified the current school and church site, and coordinated activities for parish life. In the true spirit of St. A’s, the great-great-grand daughters of one of these first volunteers was part of the class of 2015. For many families in our parish, the commitment to St. A’s is an intergenerational tradition.
On October 27, 1922, we broke ground on our parish. By 1925 the parish included a basement church plus a three-room school for 86 students (a fourth room would be added by 1928). The teachers at this early school came from the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods. These sisters taught the first graduating class of St. Athanasius, the class of 1925, which consisted of six founding students.
Father Leo Hartke served as pastor from 1931 to 1958 — a period of tremendous growth for St. A’s. Father Hartke guided the development of the current church, school grounds and a convent for the Sisters of Providence. The school grew from 86 students (1925), to 350 (1948), to 530 students (1955). Father Hartke and the parishioners during this time were vital to the parish’s population growth and site expansion.
With generous fundraising by the parish community, we completed our church in 1937. A year later, we finished the school under Father Hartke’s wish that a parish with nearly 400 families be given a complementary school. This is our current home at 2510 Ashland Ave. in Evanston.
St. Athanasius still embodies the values that built our parish and school. Our earliest teachers — the Sisters of Providence — provided a loving environment filled with academic rigor. Sister Suzanne Dailey, who worked at the school in the early 1960s, said upon arrival at St. A’s: “As I would have expected, the students ranged in personality and interests and abilities. But beyond that, there was a quality to the students that bespoke good family lives.” The Sisters’ legacy holds true to this day. This spirit has guided our past and continues to define our future.
St. Athanasius Parish >