Towards the end of Spirit Week, the Class of 2015 was invited to view the current chapel construction project during lunch. As they entered the former High School/Senior Commons, Mavin Construction Superintendent Greg Dickens gave them information about the renovation process: what’s happened so far and what to expect in the weeks to come. So far, the construction crew, under Dickens’ leadership and collaboration with the Administration, has worked to clear the Chapel of its view-obstructing beams, even out the concrete floor, install a mezzanine, and expand the stage area. It is an incredible site to behold and it was evident in the students’ reactions: audible gasps, pointing here and there, and a few dropped jaws were a sign that this was the right move for the school, and that the Chapel has always been and will continue to truly be the heart of St. Joseph’s. The students were then handed sharpie pens and encouraged to sign the old block walls or leave short messages about themselves and their class. Although the walls will be covered by a new drywall surface, the senior markings will remain, perhaps to be rediscovered during future renovation. On Friday, October 24, seniors placed items in a “time capsule” to be buried in the north east corner of the chapel, which they considered relevant to their class. This capsule will be stored until some future date where a new class may discover this treasure and begin the tradition anew. The Chapel project is scheduled for completion in January 2015.
Previously, no student had seen the inside of the Chapel under construction. However, several staff members, parents, donors, friends and families of the school have been able to sneak a peek at its progress throughout the semester. Though it was essentially just a gutted room only a few weeks ago, several founding members of St. Joseph’s had the opportunity to walk around and contemplate this project’s significance and to imagine what is soon to come. Barbara McGrath, Mary Cotter, and Margaret Ann Moon, to whom the Chapel is partially being dedicated, accompanied by her daughter, SJCS alumna Erin Moon, joined Headmaster Keith Kiser for a brief tour. Their expressions showed the realization that their determination to create a Catholic environment had finally reached a pinnacle. While the school has always reflected their dream, starting from the little house on Augusta, to what it is now, seeing the heart of the school become a beautiful space of prayer is a particularly special accomplishment for the founders and for all.
What it comes down to is not so much the interior look of the space, but a reflection of the hearts and souls of a growing school community and an ability to embrace those who want to gather in body, mind, and spirit.
Of the project and school as a whole, the owner of Mavin Construction and SJCS parent Todd Malo explains, “St. Joe’s has been a real blessing for my son Jack; he is thriving and developing extremely well as a direct result of the St. Joe’s experience; I could not be happier. As a parent experiencing the school from the outside, I have often thought how good the school has to really be to attract students despite some of our infrastructure inadequacies. As we all know, our school’s physical infrastructure (being an old building meant for another purpose) doesn’t compare well to many other schools; however, I am proud to be part of a school community where our students, teachers and parents are able to look beyond what is superficial in nature and pay attention to what really matters. With this said, I always viewed the Chapel to be the most dysfunctional space in the entire school. The Chapel is, and should be, the heart of our school—it is the center both physical and spiritually, and is the focal point of our school community. It is only fitting that this be one of the most vibrant and uplifting spaces in the school. I am honored to be part of the project that can help provide this most needed renovation. Now that the pillars are gone, the stage is framed, the mezzanine is erected and the drywall is being hung, I can see how amazing the heart of our school is going to be. I can’t wait for us to all experience it together!”
Dickens reiterates these sentiments saying, “When this project was originally discussed with me, I could not begin to imagine the magnitude of what was about to take place, nor did I realize the team that was being put together to undertake this wonderful project. This is not a typical construction renovation project. We have been blessed with hand picked subcontractors, that not only know their crafts, but they all take great pride in what they each do. We have a caring and understanding client that loves this school and is “building for the future!” Our design team has had to undergo many design challenges and in many situations often having to make rapid on the spot decisions. As I walk through this school I see so much more than a building that houses teachers, faculty and students. I see passionate caring people that love the children and want to teach, share and guide them with God’s guidance and with all their hearts! I see respect and gratitude from all of the staff, as well as the student body! Almost every day staff members and students approach me, to share how grateful they are for my workers, myself and all our hard work. They also say thank you for making their chapel more beautiful. Again, this is not normal or typical of a construction project. St. Joseph’s Catholic School is alive, rich with God’s blessings and passion! St. Joseph’s Catholic School is a family and I am blessed to have been adopted by this awesome family!”