With the growth of Davenport’s population toward the north and west, Bishop Ralph Hayes announced plans for a new parish, Our Lady of Victory. Martin Gadient had donated nine acres on Hayes Street, but this land was not quite in the desired location so it was sold, and ten acres of the Andrew Miller farm was purchased on Division Street. Our Lady of Victory Parish was established on September 13, 1962, with Rev. Kenneth O. Martin as first pastor.
During the first 18 months, services were held in the Assumption High School auditorium. John F. Kennedy Catholic School was built in 1964. The priests originally had living quarters in the school building during this time, and Masses were celebrated in the cafeteria and gym area. Classes at JFK began in the fall of 1964, with the Sisters of Humility of Mary as teachers. There were a total of 165 students in grades 2-5. Groundbreaking for the hexagonal church was held in December 1968.
In the 1970’s, the Sisters of the Roman Congregation shared the teaching duties with the Sisters of Humility. Sister Aline Lambert was the principal of the school, and Sister Lucille Fournier headed the religious education program of the parish. In 1976, the first Kindergarten class was established with 25 students, and K-6 enrollment was 190 students.
The Sisters moved on in the 1980’s, and a full teaching staff of lay teachers began in 1980 with David Burke as principal. The 1981-82 school year brought the addition of 7th grade, and 8th grade was added in 1982-83. Judith Calcari became the new principal in 1984. JFK continued to grow by adding a 2nd Kindergarten class. In 1985, Guardian Angel Preschool became the latest addition to JFK. Additional classrooms and a Parish Center were built in 1987.
As enrollment continued to grow, the number of sections at each grade level increased. A record enrollment of 414 K-8 students was reached in 1993, but then enrollment followed an area and nationwide downward trend for ten years. During this time period, all day Kindergarten was added to the curriculum in 2000. In 2001, Chad Steimle became the newest principal, and school offices and religious education offices were combined, achieving greater collaboration. An After School Care Program was also added. Enrollment hit a low of 260 in 2004.
Under the leadership of Msgr. James Parizek, who became the 4th pastor of OLV in 2002, and with highly motivated volunteers and staff both at JFK and in Scott County, enrollment at JFK began its climb in 2005. A successful Scott County capital campaign, Embracing Our Future, raised funds for tuition assistance, staff benefits, and marketing. With support from state legislation establishing School Tuition Organizations for tuition assistance, Catholic school education, again, became more and more affordable for greater numbers of families, and JFK continued its enrollment growth.
In 2005 and 2006, major renovations were done to several restrooms and the media center, including the installation of a wireless computer network. In 2008, state grants for pre-school helped fuel the expansion of pre-school to five classes from three, and a full day pre-school/child care services option was added. By 2010, a “little kids” outside play area was added at the south end of the campus.
Funded by an OLV/JFK capital campaign, Growing Our Faith…Shaping Generations, multiple additions and renovations were dedicated in December 2011. A gathering space, which includes a large open area for socialization, meeting rooms, a restroom, kitchenette, grand staircase, and elevator, was added to the church. A new baptismal font at the entry way was also added. At the school, a new entryway, offices, and restrooms were added at the north end of the building. Four classrooms were added on the east wing, and a classroom was expanded at the south for the Early Childhood Learning Center and child care services. Interior remodeling was also done to three classrooms and other areas of the building.
In 2012, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the parish, JFK achieved record preschool-8th grade enrollment. Major upgrades and repair work of nearly $500,000 were completed between 2014-2016, including new roofs at the school and rectory, lighting at the school, additional air conditioning to the school, sprinkler additions, phone system and computer work, and additional security measures.
JFK has continued to grow. In the 2015-16 school year, Msgr. Parizek’s last year before retirement, JFK had record daycare, preschool, K-8, and pre-school-8th grade enrollment and became the largest PS-8 th grade Catholic school in the Diocese of Davenport with 518 PS-8th grade students.
A new era began in 2016 with Fr. Jake Greiner becoming OLV’s fifth pastor. Several major projects were undertaken in 2017 and 2018, including the replacement of several major mechanical systems in the church and school and the restoration of the stained glass window frames of the church. Additional visible and behind-the-scenes efforts were made to enhance campus security for students, parishioners, and visitors. Under Fr. Greiner’s leadership, JFK will continue to grow and prosper.