In 1889 the German immigrant community of the parish of St. Paul contracted the School Sister of Notre Dame to begin a small parish school in temporary quarters. In 1892, the present three story building now used by St. Paul – Our Lady of Vilna School was completed. As a tribute to their commitment, the children of the school, in the very year the school was opened, won awards for excellence at the World Columbian Exposition of 1892. In later years with the departure of the Sisters of Notre Dame the Sisters of St. Casimir staffed the school. Three Sisters are still active in the school. With the closing of the Lithuanian parish and school of Our Lady of Vilna, the children of that school joined those of St. Paul. This accounts for its present name.
The German immigrants came from an atmosphere where the Catholic faith was being challenged by growing Protestantism. When they came to America they found a country which had protestant beginnings but offered an atmosphere of freedom of religion. These newly arrived immigrants saw the need for the Catholic education for their children. At the same time the catholic bishops strongly encouraged each parish to have a parish school. Thus the school was their priority before building a permanent place of worship.
But there were also other motives. Not knowing the language, the newly arrived Germans probably felt discriminated against by the English speaking population who had arrived before them. Thus they built a school that would insure that their children would be well prepared to compete with others in the economic life of their new country. In many ways the purpose of St. Paul’s School remains what it was over 100 years ago. As all immigrants, the present population of Hispanics also have dreams and visions of a better life for their children.
Today a new group, not fluent in English, streams into this country from Mexico. Like the German immigrants of a hundred years ago, they want to share their faith with their children and also seek a better life for themselves and for their children. They have been drawn to the Pilsen community and the Church of St. Paul with its school where they expect their hopes to be fulfilled.
With the closing of the parish of Our Lady of Vilna, their school was merged with that of St. Paul. The students are our proudest boast. The majority of graduates enroll in Catholic or ranking private schools and all complete their high school education. College is the next step. This becomes possible because of the quality education and motivation they received at St. Paul – Our Lady of Vilna School.