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Dr. Elena Chermak, Director of Religious Education


Hello! My name is Elena Chermak, and I have been at Saint John Fisher for many years, happily serving both the school and parish. I am excited to work with all the children, faculty, and staff as the Director of Religious Education for the school and parish. I am a resource person for religious education and plan the daily prayers, school masses, prayer services, and celebration of the sacraments. I am originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and, as the 2nd of 8 children, I come from a big family for whom faith is very important. I came to Chicago to earn a Master of Arts in Divinity at the University of Chicago, followed by a Doctor of Ministry degree at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake – (Mundelein Seminary). Working with your children in our wonderful faith-filled-family of Saint John Fisher brings great joy daily. I look forward to an exciting year with the students, principal, staff, priests, teachers and parents of our great community.

First Communion Commissioning Mass

Posted on Sep 27, 2018

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First Communion Commissioning Mass

Sunday, October 21st at 10:00 a.m.

All second  graders and their families are invited to gather for 10:00 a.m. mass on Sunday, October 21st to formally start First Communion preparation.  The children and their families will sit together near the front of church as a group. The children will be introduced to the parishioners, who will begin praying for them. The children will receive a blessing and hear a homily directed to them. There will be a reception following mass.  This mass will provide an opportunity for First Communion families to meet and get to know each other.

Students and families from Mrs. Ade's, Ms. Broncato's, and Mrs. Kellam's classes will join with the Children's Faith Formation students in Mrs. Connolly's class to form the Saint John Fisher Communion Class of 2019.

Please save this date. We look forward to seeing you there!

Rev. Thomas J. Purtell Priest Pastor Friend

Posted on Sep 27, 2018

Our school and parish community is fortunate to have beloved pastors. We are grateful to Father Ken Budzikowski for his prayerful leadership and loving care for all parishioners, students, teachers, and parents. Father Ken sadly learned of Father Purtell’s death on Saturday, August 25th. Father Ken then set into motion a week of planning, praying and hosting the funeral of Father Purtell, including the first time visit to our parish of Cardinal Cupich who honored Father Purtell by celebrating his funeral mass.


Father Purtell was a dear friend to our school and parish where he served as associate pastor and then pastor from 1979 – 2003. At his funeral mass on August 31, 2018, our seventh and eighth grade students attended, representing our school and all the school children present during Father Purtell’s ministry here. Our students were also the altar servers for the Cardinal at the mass. Our school and parish community was also very well represented by the many alumni who attended the wake, a number of whom are parents of current students.  Each alumnus had his or her favorite memory and story of Father Purtell.


The wake, held at Saint John Fisher Church, concluded with an evening prayer service led by Father Ken. The service included a homily by Sister Jean McGrath, who spoke of her long term friendship and fruitful working relationship with Father Purtell throughout his pastorate. Sister Jean spoke for our entire school and parish  community as she beautifully recounted Father Purtell’s love of and influence on parishioners and the larger community throughout his many years here.

Even in his retirement, Father Purtell was famous for maintaining relationships with parishioners, friends, colleagues and former students. Father Purtell was most recently at our parish six days before he died. On Sunday, August 19th, Father Purtell baptized the daughter of one of our school’s alumnae.

We thank God for the great blessing Father Purtell was to school and parish. Father Purtell was beloved by many – his influence remains.

            Here are some pictures from the funeral, including the Cardinal’s celebrating the mass and the many priest and bishop concelebrating, and events surrounding the day.




School and parish announcement:


Priest – Pastor - Friend

On Saturday, August 25, 2018 we sadly announced the death of Father Thomas J. Purtell, beloved associate pastor (1979 – 1984) and pastor (1984 – 2003) of Saint John Fisher Parish.

Father Purtell was a hero in our parish school and a strong proponent of Catholic education. He knew the families and children well, as had presided over their baptisms and married many of their parents. He was a lively presence in our school and parish, and supported the teachers in their work. His encouragement was a blessing.

He will be dearly missed. His fidelity to God, his commitment to his priesthood, and his boundless love for his parishioners – many of whom he knew my name - were a great blessing.

As a school and parish community, we find solace in remembering Father Purtell knew how deeply we appreciated his presence in our lives.

Thank you, Father Purtell, for your many years of service to our Church, especially the Saint John Fisher Parish community, which you immeasurably enriched by your priestly ministry.



Announcement to the School children over the P.A. Monday, August 27, 2018:

You may have noticed our flag is at half staff, which is a sign of respect when someone significant dies. On Saturday our country lost an important patriot –  John McCain – long time senator from Arizona. On Saturday, we also learned of the death of Father Purtell, who was pastor at Saint John Fisher for many years.  Father Purtell loved the students of our school and all the parishioners of our church. Maybe some of your saw him when he would visit our school recently.

Father Purtell may have baptized some of you, and even married some of your parents.

Please say a prayer for both these important leaders, and for their families who miss them very much. At home later today ask your parents about their favorite story of Father Purtell. We know our school now has a special saint in heaven, Father Purtell.


Prayer from Father Purtell’s school mass on his last day as pastor:

Father Purtell, as teachers and staff members, it was been a privilege to work with you and enjoy your leadership as we built a Catholic, caring community. We are grateful for your support, your kindness and your presence. May we continue to learn from you to live selflessly for others, we pray to the Lord.

Remarks from Elena Chermak, Director of Religious Education at Father Purtell’s wake service, Thursday, August 30, 2018.

We lost one of our best cheerleaders Saturday. As I listened to your wonderful stories over the past few days, I take great solace in knowing Father Purtell knew that we loved him, as we told him and showed him in his years at Saint John Fisher, and beyond, as he maintained those friendships with us.

Father Purtell valued everyone in this church, spoke glowingly of everyone, and thought everyone was terrific.

The most important lesson Father Purell taught me to value the relationship over the situation. We could be about to start Confirmation for 120 kids with the Cardinal himself there, and even with every reason to panic, Father Purtell would walk up to me with “Hi, Elena – how are you doing? This is going to be terrific.”

He was a cheerleader to us all.

And if in the planning, if the students weren’t quite as prepared as I hoped they’d be – he’d reassure me, “Don’t worry, Elena “You don’t want them to ‘peak’ too soon.”

Add to Father Purtell’s great intelligence, fervent devotion, and boundless sensitivity, his wonderful sense of humor:

Asking the kids on the sick bench at school: “Are you sure you aren’t faking?” Reminding us on our birthdays the Nieman Marcus truck was right around the corner, and telling us about his computer skills: He taught Steve Jobs everything he knew.

One of Tom’s favorite expressions was “My didn’t we ramble.”

Yes we did, Father Purtell. We rambled brilliantly with you, and your spirit is with us always.

Thank you for teaching and loving us so consistently and so well.

And now for our prayer:

This prayer was prayed by Monsignor McElligott at countless wakes over sixty years of his priesthood. We offer this prayer for Father Purtell as we continue this practice. We purposely left a blank line in this prayer for you to offer it possibly for your loved one sometime in the future. As you do so, remember the loving kindness and support of Father Purtell and all our parish community.

As we pray this prayer, please add Father Purtell’s name as you would name call him as priest, relative, friend:

A Prayer of Remembrance

 Almighty God,

            We come to You in our sorrow for the truth which comes from faith alone, the courage which comes from hope alone, and the generosity which comes from love alone. The wisdom for our confusion, the strength for our struggles, the devotion for our sacrifice lies in You and You alone.

            We ask You now to deepen in us this faith, hope and love, and strengthen us with truth, courage and generosity so that our prayer for ________________ may come to You more pleasing and more powerful.

   We ask this through Christ our Lord.



Prayer of the Faithful from the Funeral Mass

1. As priest and pastor, Father Tom was a source of unity, strength, and kindness to thousands who were touched by his ministry. His unique ability to draw out the best in others mirrored his compassion and kindness. May we imitate and treasure the gifts he shared so selflessly with others, we pray to the Lord.

4. For the Church which Father Tom served so faithfully for fifty-seven years. We remember the parish families with whom he so selflessly shared his ministry, and especially Saint John Fisher Parish which was blessed by his leadership as pastor. May the Church continue to be a source of hope and compassion in our troubled world, we pray to the Lord.

6. For all whom Father Tom loved who have died, especially his parents, Elizabeth and John, his brothers, Jack, Jim, Bill, and all of the deceased members of his extended family. We also remember Father Tom’s classmates and brother priests, and the countless families for whom Tom was a source of healing and comfort. Together with the angels and saints, may they welcome Father Tom into the joy of heaven, we pray to the Lord.


With gratitude for Father Purtell: - written by Sister Jean

With gratitude, we celebrate the fidelity, commitment, and love you have shared so generously through your presence in our lives and throughout your priestly ministry.

With gratitude, we bless the gift that your priesthood has been to so many in our parish community; those with whom you celebrated graced moments in their lives through the sacraments and all with whom you walked in times of great joy or difficult loss.

As you have been an instrument of God’s grace, may we who love you continue your legacy that has challenged, comforted, and called us to be the compassionate presence of God to all who have been touched by your priesthood.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.

May he rest in peace.
May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.


Rev. Thomas J. Purtell

Born: February 11, 1935

Ordained: May 1, 1961

Born to Eternal Life: August 25, 2018


Eye has not seen, ear has not heard

what God has ready for those who love him;

Spirit of love, come give us the mind of Jesus.

Teach us the wisdom of God.

            ~1Cor. 2: 9 – 10


Opening School Mass

Posted on Sep 19, 2018


We were excited to celebrate our Opening School Mass on September 7, 2018. This mass was hosted by the eighth graders. We join Catholic schools throughout our archdiocese with our focus on this year's theme: We have Faith to Move Mountains. 


1. Good morning!

Welcome to our all-school mass hosted by the eighth graders.

We welcome students, teachers, and all who have come to pray with us.

2. Today we will learn about our school theme:

Faith to Move Mountains.

We will also hear more about new and helpful friends we have in our school: our prayer partners.

3. Most important, we celebrate all God’s blessings to us: especially our faith, our families, our friends, our school and teachers, and our ability to learn.

4. This is the first All School Mass with Mr. Fornaciari. We hope our prayers and songs show our great Saint John Fisher Spirit as be begin this school year together.

5. Our gathering Song is All Things New,

 Number 450,  #4-5-0.

Please stand.


First Reading:

A reading from the book of Exodus:

One day Moses was taking care of his father –in-law’s sheep.

Moses led the sheep along the edge of the desert to Sinai (Sign-Eye),

the mountain of God.

Suddenly the Lord’s angel appeared to Moses from a burning bush, which was on fire, but it was not burning up.

Moses said to himself, “I will go over and see why this is happening.”

When the Lord saw Moses coming near, the Lord called out to him.

Moses answered, “Lord, I am here.”

God replied, “ Don’t come any closer. Take off your sandals, because the ground you are standing on is holy.

I am the God of your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

I am sending you to bring my people out of this country, Egypt where they are treated unfairly.

Moses said to God, ‘Who am I to go to the King and bring your people out of Egypt?”

God replied,

“I will be with you,

and you will lead my people out of Egypt.

Then you will know that I am the one who sent you,

and you will worship me on this mountain.

The Word of the Lord.

Lectionary W345, 505 Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12


A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew:

A man came up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and said,
"Lord, have pity on my son, who suffers severely;
often he falls into fire, and often into water.
I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him."
Jesus said in reply,
"O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you?

Bring the boy here to me."
Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him,
and from that hour the boy was cured.

Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said,
"Why could we not drive it out?"

He said to them, "Because of your little faith.
Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain,
'Move from here to there,' and it will move.

Nothing will be impossible for you."

The Gospel of the Lord.

Matthew 17:14-20




Prayer of the Faithful


1. For all students, that we grow in faith, work hard, and be helpful to one another, we pray to the Lord.

2. For our teachers, that they know God’s wisdom and courage in all they do, we pray to the Lord.

3. For all parents and family members, in thanksgiving for all the things they do each day to love and care for us, and provide the things we need, we pray to the Lord.

4. For Mr. Fornaciari, that he feels the support of students, parents and teachers as he uses his gifts to lead our school each day, we pray to the Lord.

5. For all who need extra help in our world: for the poor, the suffering and the lonely, and for all who come to their aid, we pray to the Lord.

5a. For all who work each day to keep our country and city safe, we pray to the Lord.

6. For all who are sick, and for doctors, nurses, and paramedics who help them, we pray to the Lord.

7. For all who have died, especially Father Purtell, and Mr. Bechina, and for their families and loved ones, we pray to the Lord.

8. Please add your own intentions in silence…….. we pray to the Lord.

Eucharistic Prayer:


Lord's Prayer



Sign of Peace:


Receiving Communion:


Explanation of theme: 

After communion meditation 1:



1. Mountains are beautiful, awesome works of God. Mountains are important in the Bible because they remind us of God’s power and might.

2. Moses and Jesus would go to the mountains to learn more about God and to pray.

3. Throughout history and even today, people go to the mountain tops to see things in a whole new way – the beautiful views -  and to think about what is most important.

4. We will now hear about God’s majesty and mountains. It comes from a prayer Jesus knew well: psalm 122: I will lift my eyes to the mountains.

As you listen to this prayer, think about God’s help for us in all we do.

5. Imagine someone who is about to do something very difficult: like our ancestors who traveled to this land.

6. We remember God helps us in all our joys, worries and challenges: big and small.

7. Our classmate, Manny F. of eighth grade will sing this prayer, joined by member of our eighth grade class:

 I will lift my eyes, psalm 122.


After communion meditation 2: (after the song)



1. Mountains are beautiful and mountains can also be obstacles: things which get in our way. Imagine early travelers with tired horses and heavy wagons trying to cross a mountain. Imagine engineers who today build tunnels through mountains.

2. Our faith says we can move mountains: and we can do that, pebble by pebble each day.

3.  Our faith can move mountains in these three ways:

  1. Prayer: We start with prayer as we ask for God’s mighty power.
  1. Action: We work hard – to figure out a plan and put it in action
  1. Help: We get help from teachers, family and friends:

Our eighth grade class will present some examples using words and actions.

Eighth graders, please come forward:

After communion meditation 3:

These are three examples of prayer, action and help to move mountains:

I want to stop fighting with my brothers and sisters and be kind

1. Prayer:  I will ask God to help me.

2. Action: I will come up with a plan to say something nice to my brothers and sisters instead of fighting.

    3. Help:  I will ask my mom or dad and friends for advice.

We have Faith to move mountains


I want to wake up on time for school.

1. Prayer: I will ask God for strength and guidance.

2. Action: I will work hard by going to bed the first time my parents tell me and by not playing video games at night .

3. Help: I will ask my parents and friends advice on how they wake up on time,  ask my parent if they’ll set an alarm on their cell phone, and remember my parent has breakfast waiting for me.

We have Faith to move mountains.


I want to get good grades so I can use all the gifts God has given me.

1. Prayer: I will pray and ask God for guidance.

2. Action:  I will do my homework each day and be very well organized.

3.  Help: I will ask my teachers, parents and friends to encourage me. I will encourage my classmates, and get extra help from my teachers if I need it.

We have Faith to move mountains.


We move mountains every day. As the Class of 2019, we present these 19 ideas:

(Pictures from practice:)




To each idea please join us by responding: Faith to move mountains.

1. I can move the mountain of doubt by praying for confidence. We have: Faith to move mountains

2. I can move the mountain of insecurity by surrounding myself with people who care for me. We have: Faith to move mountains.

3. I can move the mountain of bullying by sticking up for everyone. We have: Faith to move mountains

4.I can move the mountain of procrastination by making a list of things I need to do each day, and crossing them off as I do them. We have: Faith to move mountains

5.I can move the mountain of shyness by praying for confidence and by volunteering to speak. We have: Faith to move mountains

6.I can move the mountain of negative peer pressure by praying for right judgment and acting according to my conscience. We have: Faith to move mountains

7.I can move the mountain of selfishness by praying for generosity, and then trying to be aware of how my actions and words will affect others. We have: Faith to move mountains

8.I can move the mountain of learning math facts and spelling words by praying for wisdom and, with the help of others by practicing ten minutes every day. We have: Faith to move mountains

9.I can move the mountain of needing to listen to my parents by praying for help and by doing as my parents ask - the first time. We have: Faith to move mountains

10.I can move the mountain of dishonesty by praying for courage to tell the truth. We have: Faith to move mountains.

11.I can move the mountain of not sharing my toys by praying for kindness and trying to share 2 toys a day at home and at school. We have: Faith to move mountains

12.I can move the mountain of not fitting in by praying for confidence, making a new friend, being a good friend, and remembering I have people who love me. We have: Faith to move mountains

13.I can move the mountain of following directions at home and at school by praying to be more focused and attentive, and with the help of others, to stop what I am doing and make eye contact when people are speaking to me. We have: Faith to move mountains

14. I can move the mountain of saying unkind things by praying for respectfulness. I can decide to use encouraging words. With the help of others, I can be a good example and not talk about others. We have: Faith to move mountains

15. I can move the mountain of disappointment by praying for patience and remembering that you don’t always get what you want, and that things work out in good ways you don’t expect. We have: Faith to move mountains

16. I can move the mountain of making poor decisions by praying for good judgment. With the help of others, I can weigh the pros and cons of important decisions. We have: Faith to move mountains

17. I can move the mountain of laziness by praying for energy to do activities, and by getting off electronics and making plans with friends, or help out around the house. We have: Faith to move mountains

18. I can move the mountain of knowing which high school to choose by praying for wisdom, by learning facts and skill for the entrance exam, and shadowing at schools I am interested in, and with the help of others, talking to my parents and students I know who go to those schools. We have: Faith to move mountains

19. I can move the mountain of worry by knowing God is always with me. God gave me a good mind and many abilities. I will remember to work hard, knowing I have many supportive people to help me. We have: Faith to move mountains

Our prayer, our hard work, our family, teachers, priests, principal and friends, can help us move mountains. Let’s help one another this year.

Blessing of our school's New Principal:



Beginnings are exciting and everyone wants to do their best.

Let’s ask God to send great blessings upon Mr. Fornaciari as he leads our school each day. Please stand and raise your hands over him.

May the Lord always bless you and keep you.

May his face always shine upon you.

May you know his compassion and mercy.

May the Lord walk because you forever.

May God bless you in all that you do:

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.



8th graders with teachers:







Father Ken: