By Jay Nies
A time capsule, not to be opened for 30 years, will mark this point in history for generations of St. Joseph Cathedral School students, especially as they put their soon-to-be-expanded gymnasium and fine arts center to use.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight, Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos and dignitaries of the Church and local community attended a March 7 prayer service and ground-breaking ceremony inside their yet-unmodified facility.
“Today we’re here to create a memory,” Principal Spencer Allen told the students, faculty and staff, who filled the gym. “You are all part of this event. You’ll drive by and say, ‘We helped build that.’”
Also joining the bishops at the ceremony were: Monsignor Robert A. Kurwicki, rector of the cathedral parish; Father Joshua Duncan, associate pastor; Assistant Principal Gina Bailey; Sister Elizabeth Youngs, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth Kansas and diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools; Sister Julie Brandt, a School Sister of Notre Dame and associate superintendent; “Sparty the Spartan,” the school’s new mascot; and many other parish and community representatives.
The approximately $1.75 million, 4,200-square-foot expansion will nearly double the size of the gym, creating a high-school-regulation-size basketball/volleyball court that can be divided into two grade-school-size practice courts.
It will have a larger stage and backstage area and will offer better visibility during performances.
There will also be a new restroom that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and easier to get to from the playground.
Air-conditioning and an improved heating system will keep the facility useful and comfortable in all seasons.
A new basement level will provide ample storage for the school and parish, while a canopy over the building’s east-side entrance will improve accessibility.
The work is scheduled to be completed this fall.
The parish has already raised the estimated construction cost.
For following Jesus
Mr. Allen said the building addition will be a long-awaited blessing.
“In a few weeks, we’ll push this wall back and add all kinds of great things to help you all to realize your full potential, all the gifts that God has put within you,” he told the children.
“We are all here because of you,” he said to them. “We’re all here to support you becoming disciples first, but also good citizens so that you can go out into the world and change it with the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
He noted that although academics and faith formation are the school’s top priorities, sports and other extracurriculars help build community and give students a chance to pursue activities that they are uniquely interested in.
Time to give thanks
Excavation work continued outside the gym as participants gathered for the groundbreaking.
“This is a day that all of us have prayed and worked hard for,” said Msgr. Kurwicki. “We’re so grateful, especially to God for all the graces and blessings and all the great times we have had here in the past and all that will take place here in the future.”
He said the expanded gym and fine arts center will be a tool for helping to build up the Body of Christ in Jefferson City and to educate young men and women in the mind and heart of Christ.
“We pray that all of those who will be a part of its construction, all those who have been a part of the planning, all who will be conducting themselves in sporting events and other activities over the years here, will be blessed,” he said.
Bishop McKnight said the project’s commencement should be a catalyst for gratitude.
“What we’re celebrating today is the result of a lot of people coming together to work and to make sacrifices for you,” he told the students. “Remember that when we give of ourselves — of our time, our talent and our treasure — we’re only giving from what we have been given from God.”
Bishop McKnight prayed: “All-powerful and merciful Father … bless this land on which this new construction of the gymnasium and fine arts center is about to begin.
“Through the gift of Your eternal wisdom, grant that the undertaking we begin today for Your glory and our own well-being may progress day-by-day to its successful completion.”
Bishop McKnight then sprinkled the construction site, inside and outside, with holy water.
Because it was cold and damp outside, students brought shovels into the gym, along with a wagon filled with dirt for the honored guests to turn over.
Bishop McKnight used the red and gold shovel that had been used to plant the Pentecost Tree outside the Cathedral in 2003 and to break ground for the Alphonse J. Schwartze Memorial Catholic Center in 2004.
Among those attending the ground-breaking were: St. Joseph Cathedral School Board President Shawn Bailes; Parish Pastoral Council Chairwoman Edie Vogel; Mayor Carrie Tergin; Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Allen and Board Chairman Bill Plank; Dr. Larry Linthacum, superintendent of the Jefferson City Public Schools; and Eddie Mulholland, principal of St. Martin School in St. Martins.
With them were other school board and parish council members; representatives of the parish building committee; aarchitect Cary Gampher and Michelle Girard from The Architects Alliance; project supervisors from Sircal Contracting Inc., the general contractor; and ambassadors from the Chamber of Commerce.
Parishioners and Cathedral School graduates Butch and Trisha Ruprecht, owners of a local McDonald’s restaurant, presented a check for the proceeds from a recent “McTeachers Night” fundraiser.
“The people here have been wonderful to deal with,” said Ms. Girard, project manager from The Architects Alliance. “They’re very easygoing and excited about the process and have been very open to the ideas that we’ve had.”
The school has 480 students in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
Mr. Allen noted that the gym in its current form, built in the mid-1970s, does not offer enough practice space for that many children.
“We have a lot of kids practicing too late at night, and it’s not good for them,” he said.
Likewise, with the size and scope of its musical productions, the school has outgrown the current stage. The new stage will be larger and more conducive to other uses throughout the year, said Mr. Allen.