St. John's Grade School plans first-ever reunion

St. John’s Parochial Grade School, shown at the end of the 1967-68 school year, was located on the north side of St. John’s Catholic Church. The first-ever reunion former students and graduates is being planned for Father’s Day, Sunday, June 19.

Parishioners of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Savanna are planning a reunion celebration for former students and graduates of St. John’s parochial grade school which closed at the end of the 1967-1968 school year.

The reunion will be held on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 19, beginning with the celebration of a special Mass at 10:30 a.m. followed by a catered luncheon that will begin around noon at St. John’s Antl Hall.

Dave Engaldo, chair of St. John’s Reunion Planning Committee, indicated that this is the first reunion that St. John’s has ever sponsored for its former parochial school students and graduates. Anyone who ever attended St. John’s parochial school is welcome and encouraged to attend, spouses included.

Event details can be found on the following Facebook page: St. John’s Grade School (Savanna IL) Reunion or by contacting Engaldo at dengaldo@yahoo.com or by phone at 815-666-7598. Attendees are being asked to RSVP by June 1.

A Reunion Planning Committee has been organized to help track down former students and graduates, send invitations, develop a reunion program, and locate and organize pictures and other school related memorabilia from over the years. The Committee includes current parishioners and former St. John’s attendees.

“Anyone wishing to lend a hand with the planning would be welcome,” said Engaldo. “There will be plenty of fun to go around!”

St. John’s Grade School was originally built in 1923 under the leadership of Father F.J. Antl, who served as St. John’s first Pastor from May 24, 1884, until his death on May 10, 1926.

The new school building, constructed by P.K. Miles’ Savanna Construction Company, was three stories high, 46 feet wide and 86 feet long and cost $65,000 to build.

The school had five large classrooms and a total capacity of 250 students. A large auditorium, with an 18-foot ceiling and a seating capacity of 480, was built on the third floor. The auditorium was used for a variety of parish programs and events, and served as a gymnasium for basketball and other indoor games.

The new grade school took the place of the original school built in 1903, which became inadequate for the growing needs of the parish. The Franciscan Sisters of Milwaukee took over the operation of the parish school in 1903 and continued to preside over the parish’s education programs until the school’s closure.

The new grade school thrived for over 45 years, educating well over 1,000 students during that time.

In May 1968, St. John’s parochial school graduated its final 17 students. Effective June 1, 1968, St. John’s Grade School officially closed its doors, joining many other Northwestern Illinois and Eastern Iowa parochial schools that became the victims of increased operating costs and a shortage of accredited teachers.

The school continued to be used on a limited basis for religious education and as a community musical education center for several years.

In 1986, Sister Marie Celine said her final good-byes after 22 years at St John’s and became the last in a long line of the Franciscan Sisters of Milwaukee that served the parish since 1903.

In August 1995 the school was demolished to make way for a new 12,000-square foot parish center named Antl Hall, which included six religious education classrooms, four offices, a large meeting hall with a seating capacity of 300, a full-service kitchen and restroom facilities.

Antl Hall was dedicated on Aug. 25, 1996. It was the end of one era and the beginning of another. Antl Hall will soon be celebrating its 26th year.