But Fr. Quille’s dream still loomed. So, with the consent of Archbishop Mundelein, Mercy Home hatched plans for the third and fourth branches of the Trade School: a School of Automobile Engineering and General Machine Repair Shop, along with a Business School offering courses in shorthand note taking, typewriting, and bookkeeping.
However, as World War I raged on, Fr. Quille’s dream was abruptly put on hold for more than a year by the War Activity Board, which denied Mercy Home’s building permits during frugal wartime conservation efforts. But with Allied Forces claiming victory in 1918, Fr. Quille wrote a month after Armistice Day, “As the war is ended and peace, universal peace, we hope, near at hand, we feel at liberty to resume our dreaming.”
Seven months later – in the summer of 1919 – members of the Bricklayer’s Union volunteered their time to build what they hoped would be the first two floors of the new trade school. However, the project got snarled in a catch-22. The bricklayers offered their labor and time, free of charge because they were on strike. But the strike prevented access to larger amounts of brick and mortar, so they only built a garage and coal shed with what little donated material they had.
Although a dedicated “Trade School” building never materialized, whether he realized it or not, Fr. Quille’s dream had already come true and would continue to do so for decades to come. With Mission Press and the Shoe Repair department in high gear, The Mission Trade School was, effectively, already established, despite the lack of ribbon-cutting and ceremony. By maximizing existing space and taking advantage of incremental building additions, the trade school became the sum of many parts.
As the Roaring Twenties ushered in new property acquisitions for Mercy Home’s Rita Clubs that housed working young women, our in-house carpentry and painting trades took flight. These new properties – separate from Mercy Home’s main campus – gave the boys valuable on-the-job experience as they remodeled the buildings under the guidance of experienced tradesmen.
Eventually, a designated Auto Mechanics Trade School opened for business. Besides car repair, the boys also drove a Ford truck around town, picking up donated furniture for the Rita Homes. A couple years later, The Mission Candle Department set up shop, making rubrical beeswax candles for the clergy.
Mercy Home’s tradition of teaching our young men and women marketable skills for the workforce remains of critical importance to this day. While shoe repair and candle making have faded away, our internship and apprentice programs are carrying the torch of Fr. Quille’s dream, passing along the values and ethics of The Mission Trade School for generations to come.