Gael's History

St. Philip Basilica High School Gaels Alumni Association

Gaels History

Beginning in 1904, the Servite Fathers established & maintained St. Philip Basilica High School, on Chicago's west side, as a high school for boys, until its closing in 1970. Below is some history of the school.

Still Alive & Kickin'

Although our school has been closed, since 1970, our alumni association is now, and has been alive and functional throughout the years.

The early years...

This image, reflects the early years of Our Lady of Sorrows Church, which we were associated with throughout our history.

OLS Interior

The beautiful, ornate interior of Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica was both moving & inspirational.

OLS National Shrine

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows, was our "special" place of comfort & reflection.

St. Philip High School

Our school has a long & proud heritage, dating back to 1904, when the Servite Fathers established a school for boys, at the rear of the monastery & adjacent to the church.

St. Philip High School

The school building was finally ready in 1910, and opened its doors for the first time. Our school building (shown here), stayed with us throughout the years, until its closing in 1970.

St. Philip High School

The St. Philip High School building still stands today, at 3141 West Jackson Boulevard, just as it did when we attended. After the closing, in 1970, it was first occupied by OLS Elementary School & then a charter school.

Gaels Athletics

The Gaels, early in their history, were members, of the Cook County League, for only one year, and captured the league's 1911 baseball championship, before the league dissolved.

The CCL baseball title, was vacated, due to the use of 1911 players, (shown here), some of whom were also professionals.

Annual Banquet

Each year, the alumni association conducts an gathering of faculty, staff, former students, sons & friends of St. Philip Basilica High School, to renew & foster the continued camaraderie we've all enjoyed throughout the years.


get in touch

About Our School

This information contained in this box is linked to the History Page, of our web site. Information is provided about the rich History of St. Philip Basilica High School & our connection with the basilica. Read more...

About Our Alumni

The information contained in this box, is linked to further information about the St. Philip Basilica High School Gaels Alumni Association, its activities & "How to communicate directly with us." Read more...

Annual Alumni Banquet

The information contained in this box is linked to our Annual Banquet page, with information about our upcoming Annual Banquet, always held on the First Friday in May of each year. Read more...

What's New?

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Generally, our entire site is "NEW," with a new look, feel & features that will help enhance your experience, and provide you with "NEW" things you can accomplish. Watch this section for further information about New "Features" & "Functions," that we we will be adding to the site, from time to time. It will be your first "look" at out latest inclusions.

All photo galleries have been updated, with all pictures we have available from previous banquets. The Guestbook has also been updated.

This year's banquet is rapidly approaching. Remember, ALWAYS the First Friday in May. This year, Friday, May 1, 2020.

Current News

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The Current News content, in this box will be updated as necessary, to include information about current and upcoming events that may be of interest to you. Check back often to keep current with what is happening with the Gaels Alumni.

Upcoming Events

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The Upcoming Events content in this box, will include news about any upcoming events that are planned for the future. You will be provided, here, with relevant information about our Annual Banquet & any actions directed by our alumni.

Our last banquet, held on Friday, May 3, 2019, was again very successful, with more then 100 attendees. Our next banquet will be held, as always, on the First Friday in May, this year on Friday, May 1, 2020. Read more...

About St. Philip Basilica High School

Chicago, Illinois: Located in northeastern Illinois in eastern Cook County. Lake Michigan, along with the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers, are the primary waterways that serve this, the third largest city in the United States, and one of the most famous cities in the world, as the result of an ethnically diverse population that adopted the city. What began as a small village, in the early 1800s, along the banks of Lake Michigan, Chicago grew to an approximate population of nearly 2.2 million by 1910, and perhaps 2.4 million by 1914, within the city limits.

In the Beginning:

In 1904, as the "Windy City" was growing rapidly, the friars of the Order Friar Servants of Mary, commonly known as the Servite Fathers, established a school for boys only, at the rear of the Our Lady of Sorrows Monastery adjacent to Our Lady of Sorrows Church on Chicago's near West Side.

Originally, the Servites established the school as a four-year academic institution, which also provided a three-year commercial curriculum. Additionally, the school also offered a preparatory program for 7th and 8th grade boys, at its inception, but the program only lasted until 1916.

By 1910, a new building, located on West Jackson Boulevard, was ready for occupancy.

The friars named the school after a Servite Cardinal, born in Florence, Italy in 1233 -- Saint Philip Benizi, who joined the Servite Order in 1253, at age 20, after practicing medicine for some time. Based on his work as a Servite, Philip was eventually suggested as a possible successor to Pope Clement IV. He was eventually canonized in 1671.

The Growing Years:

In 1924, a gymnasium, with basketball court, and including a swimming pool, bowling alleys, locker rooms and meeting rooms, was added. Additional classroom space was erected in 1938, and an all-concrete, enclosed stadium was ready for use in 1944.

In 1956, Pope Pius XII, granted to Our Lady of Sorrows National Shrine, the status of a Basilica, and given the direct link of the high school, the parish and the shrine, the school officially became known as St. Philip Basilica High School. The school provided a parochial education to young men through two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Baby Boom.

The continued growth of Chicago and the suburbs, combined with improvements to mass transportation, particularly the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the Interstate Highway System (Interstate 55, 57, 80, 90, 94, etc.), all contributed to making St. Philip's a "true" metropolitan high school, at its peak, by the late 1950s through the middle 1960s, when enrollment grew to an average of about 1,000 students, from all areas of the city and suburbs.

As the end of the decade approached, enrollment dwindled rapidly, to a point that only 602 students were enrolled at St. Philip's, in its final school year of operation, in 1969-70.

Where we're going:

As a thriving metropolis, Chicago has continued to grow to 2,896,016 million residents by 2000, and 2007 estimates put the city's population at approximately 2,859,700 million, in the city alone.

According to the 2000 census (the next census is scheduled for 2020), the larger Chicago Metropolitan Area, including the city and its surrounding suburban areas, is home to approximately 9,157,450 residents.

The school stayed open thru two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Baby Boom to educate young men in a parochial environment. St. Philip averaged about 1,000 students at its peak between the late-1950's and early-1960's, then started to taper off to a point that 602 students were enrolled in the school's final year in 1970, which is when the Archdiocese of Chicago decided to close down St. Philip's.

Many factors contributed to the final decision to close the school, among them were the dwindling number of Servite vocations (the number of young men entering Servite religious life), thus requiring the order to re-focus its concentration on its primary function as a missionary order, the declining enrollment in the school, the radically increasing violent nature of the neighborhood around the school, and the proximity of other parochial-based high schools, all contributed to the Archdiocese of Chicago's decision to close the school.

In his 1990 dissertation about Chicago Catholic high schools, our good friend George Fornero stated that some of the reasons why the school closed its doors were as follows: the decrease of teaching religious faculty within the Servite order; the number of students deciding to choose religious life as a vocation significantly decreased; mounting operational deficits (the New World reported "an annual operating deficit of over $70,000"); and, the racial makeup of the school's neighborhood changed from Caucasian to African-American.

Before the final decision to close St. Philip's was made, other options were considered for the school's future, like the possibility of merging with all-girls Siena or nearby all-girl, sister-school Providence (then in the process of merging with all-boy St. Mel, which culminated in 1969), the possibility of a three-way merger between St. Philip's, St. Mel and Providence, or a four-way merger, which would also include Siena. An additional possibility was to turn over the St. Philip's physical plant to Our Lady of Sorrows Elementary School (which was eventually done anyway), and phasing out the high school, by allowing the existing students (freshmen through juniors) to continue through their graduation, and no longer accept additional admissions.

The building that housed St. Philip still remains standing today and is in use as a Charter School that continues to serve the neighborhood.

Quick Facts About St. Philip Basilica High School
Year opened: 1904
Year closed: 1970
School nickname: Gaels
School colors: Purple & Gold
School song: "Purple and Gold"

Purple & Gold

Purple and gold, purple and gold,

To a man, we're back of you,

Not for a day, while we're away,

Forgetting St. Philip School.

Rah! Rah! Rah!

Loving her name, ever the same,

With a love that will never grow cold,

Loving the purple, loving the gold,

Pur-ple, Purple and gold!

Purple & Gold

What is a "GAEL?"

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, a Gael is defined as:
  1. A Scottish Highlander;
  2. A Celtic, especially a Gaelic speaking inhabitant of Ireland, Scotland, or the Isle of Man.

Athletics & Extra-Curricular Activities

St. Philip was a charter member of the Chicago Catholic League in 1913, competing in football, baseball, and softball while its doors were opened, Basketball, track and field, as well as boxing and bowling were also offered, but very little information is available.

For most of its existence, St. Philip's was a member of the Chicago Catholic League, competing in all major interscholastic sports, including Baseball Basketball, Football, Swimming, and Bowling. The Gaels also fielded teams in Hockey, Softball, Track and Field, and won the 1933 Catholic League Boxing championship.

The Gaels were also members, early in their history, of the Cook County League, for only one year, and captured the league's baseball championship before the league dissolved.

St. Philip's association with the CCL was only for one year from 1911-12 as it won the baseball title. In the previous year, the title was vacated due to the use of players that were also professionals. The Cook County League was broken up in 1913 when the Public League, Catholic League, and Suburban League were all formed.

1911 St. Philip Gaels Baseball Team

St. Philip Gaels Baseball 1911

Baseball did continue at St. Philip until the time the school closed, winning the junior division in 1914, and it captured the Catholic League title in 1969.

For more information about the Gaels & the rich athletic history, visit the Athletic Hall of Fame page.

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