The Summer of 1991 was one of Chicago’s most deadly moments in history. Nearly a thousand people murdered, many thousands more victims of violent crime. I had nearly convinced my mother to allow me to attend the local public school, but that violence had hit our southwest corner of the city, leaving my mother to insist on me attending a private school.
We had spent the previous fall touring different all-girls schools, and I had settled on Queen of Peace. My mom had cautioned me that I had to work hard and pray for high results on the entrance exam because it was a competitive school. Though I was happy to receive acceptance to that school, I still held out hopes of going to the public school with all my friends.
Queen of Peace was a different type of school. Despite being Catholic, it had a rather progressive, pro-feminist feel to it. Sinsinnawan Dominican nuns had established the school. Unlike most Catholic schools, QOP was not affiliated with the Archdiocese of Chicago, but directly run by the convent that established it.
I can only remember seven male faculty or staff in the building. At least two of those male teachers were former seminarians and taught religion. The local pastor would come twice a year: one prayer mass, and Ash Wednesday. Fifteen hundred girls in the gym, quietly led through prayer. I did not always like the school. I struggled often, but most of that was from a chaotic home life than any problem posed by the school.
Nevertheless, I was overwhelmed to learn that QOP would be shutting its doors this year. In all my education and professional experience, I have never been in an environment that was so pro-women, even if I disagreed with them on certain topics. I have never seen a school so dedicated to one central mission: developing “Women of Peace”.
In the last decade, one by one, the all-girls schools had slowly dwindled away. Now, only two girl schools remain in the area: Mother McCauley, a Catholic school, and Aqsa School, an Islamic school. I can’t think of anything more devastating than the continuous loss of female spaces.
I finished watching ‘The Keepers’ on Netflix a few days ago, and it has taken me that long to digest what I learned. It was hard to watch these women recount the violence they endured. In an all-girls school. By violent sadistic priests.
It is devastating to know that they were harmed by those who should have protected them. And it is frustrating to learn that the Archdiocese of Baltimore continues to hinder their investigation, their search for answers, and closure. My ardent hope is that the Archdiocese of Baltimore steps up and provides that closure to their victims. Because that is what faithful people do: they stand up for those who can’t, and against those who would push us down.
As I watched, I couldn’t help but compare it to my own experience at this strange Catholic girls school that had limited its affiliation with the Archdiocese, and with men. I wish there were a way to preserve Queen of Peace, to provide such space for girls for years to come.
I can’t assume to know the minds of those sisters who created Queen of Peace. I can’t know for certain if they intentionally blocked Archdiocesan interference because of fear of the predatory male hiding in vestments. I’m sure if we asked them now, they would deflect and remain humble.
Yet, I am forever grateful to those original Women of Peace for creating a sacred feminine space for girls to grow and learn unencumbered.
#TheKeepers #QueenOfPeace #WomenOfPeace