The inaugural basket was more of a “Hail Mary” than a slam-dunk.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight ascended a ladder and one-handed the ball through the hoop, capping off the rededication of St. Joseph Cathedral School’s newly renovated and expanded gymnasium and performing arts center.
“We are here to give thanks to God for all the wonderful things He has given us,” Bishop McKnight stated. “We thank Him most of all for the gift of Himself, reflected in this impressive gathering of people in this beautifully renewed building.”
Joining Bishop McKnight at the Nov. 16 event were Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos, who while leading the diocese gave permission for the expansion project to move forward; Father Louis Nelen, pastor of Cathedral of St. Joseph parish; Father Joshua Duncan, associate pastor; and Monsignor Robert A. Kurwicki, vicar general and previous pastor, on whose watch the project got under way.
Principal Spencer Allen served as emcee, accompanied by the school’s new mascot, “Sparty the Spartan.”
Also taking part were Assistant Principal Gina Bailey; Dr. Larry Linthacum, superintendent of the Jefferson City Public Schools; Mayor Carrie Tergin; and representatives of The Architects Alliance, which designed the expansion, and Sircal Contracting Inc., the general contractor.
Rounding out the crowd were members of the St. Joseph Cathedral School advisory board and the Cathedral of St. Joseph parish council; ambassadors of the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce, of which Mr. Allen is board member; and the students who for months have been looking forward to scuffing up the new floor.
The Cathedral School Choir, the Cathedral School Band and the eighth-grade class brought music to the festivities, while Bishop McKnight led everyone in prayers of blessing and thanks.
“Grant that all who meet here may find the enrichment of companionship and together offer You the praise that is Your due,” he prayed before sprinkling the walls with holy water.
Functionally, the expanded venue has vastly more room and better equipment for sports and performances.
But the conspicuously displayed crucifix points to the primary purpose: building up the Body of Christ and educating young men and women in imitation of His mind and heart.
“The whole reason for the expansion was to help the kids in our school and our parish realize their full potential that God has given them,” said Mr. Allen. “More than winning games or getting applause, everything the students do in this building is part of becoming the person God envisions them to be.”
Work on the approximately $1.75 million, 4,200-square-foot project got under way in February.
St. Martin School in St. Martins shared its gym, while Cathedral School teachers found creative ways to fit recess and phys-ed classes around the construction.
The Cathedral gym now has a high school regulation size basketball/volleyball court that can be divided into two grade school size practice courts.
It has ceiling-mounted volleyball nets, dressing rooms for athletics and theater, and a new sound and video system.
The stage and backstage areas are much larger, and their new orientation offers better visibility during performances.
A new restroom is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and is easier to get to from the playground. An outdoor water fountain has been installed for recess.
Air-conditioning and an improved heating system make the facility useful and comfortable in all seasons.
A new basement provides plentiful storage for the school and parish, while a canopy over the building’s eastern entrance improves accessibility and aesthetics.
With more than 460 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and a full slate of sports and public-performance activities, the school had outgrown its 1975-vintage gym and stage.
The parish launched a three-year capital campaign to pay for the expansion, and an anonymous donor pledged to match donations, dollar-for-dollar.
“They did that because they are strong supporters of our Catholic schools, and they know that we offer a first-class education through the lens of what God created,” said Mr. Allen.
The anonymous donors “wanted to contribute to building the best facility we can have in order to help draw more people into the mission,” he said. “It’s all about bringing kids closer to Christ.”
He noted that although academics and faith-formation are the school’s top priorities, sports and other extracurricular activities help build community and give students a chance to pursue activities that they are uniquely interested in.
Helping young people find their passion makes an incalculable contribution to society, he said.
“Cathedral School is part of the overall fabric that feeds into the local culture and environment,” he said. “So we’ve had a lot of strong support throughout the parish and throughout the community at large.”
Cathedral School Advisory Board President Jon Browning, an enthusiastic promoter of the expansion, lauded the leadership of Mr. Allen, Fr. Nelen, Msgr. Kurwicki, Bishop Gaydos and Bishop McKnight.
He said the completed project is evidence of the abundant support the school receives from the parish families and local community.
“This example of stewardship will serve our school, parish and diocesan communities for many years,” he said.