When the doors to the new gym were opened Jan. 3, students of Maternity of Mary-St. Andrew School entered with wide eyes and gaping mouths that quickly drew into smiles. It was their first look at the completed gym, which is the first in the St. Paul school’s history.
Before that moment, the addition had been kept locked to prevent any sneak peaks before the grand opening.
Bishop Paul Sirba of Duluth dedicated the gym Jan. 3 in the presence of more than 650 students, parents, faculty, alumni and parishioners of St. Andrew and Maternity of Mary.
Complete with a concession stand, locker rooms and secure entry, the gym addition is the final part of a $5 million school renovation project that began in June 2009.
The two St. Paul parishes have shared a school since 1989. Even before the merger, neither St. Andrew nor Maternity of Mary schools had a gym.
The addition was christened “Donahue Gymnasium” for Father Jack Donahue, who was pastor at Maternity of Mary from 1981 to 2000 and helped to found the combined pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade school. Now retired, Father Donahue was present for the dedication, where he received the honor of making the first basket on the new basketball court.
The parish and school community welcomed Bishop Sirba to preside at the Mass and dedication because he was pastor of Maternity of Mary from 2000 to 2006. He was ordained a bishop last December. Maternity of Mary pastor Father Peter Williams and five other local priests assisted with the dedication.
A sense of community
The gymnasium gives the school and parish a stronger sense of community, said school principal Melissa Dan. Parishioners and students were playing basketball games in the new space within days of its opening.
“The kids are so excited for other schools to come to their gym now. They have a sense of pride,” Dan said.
Before the dedication, gym class was held in Maternity of Mary’s basement, and sports events were held at the North Dale Recreation Center, which is located across the street from the 275-student school.
Father Williams played his first basketball game with parishioners the week following the dedication. He hopes to make Wednesday night basketball a regular event.
The positive — and even emotional — response from the parish and school has caused him to realize that for many, the new space is more than “just a gym.”
“It’s like a sign to the community that we’re going to be around for a while,” he said. “That, for people, is very confirming.” Catholic Spirit