School addition answers need raised by student body increase

GARDEN CITY — Years of hard work and an accumulation of treasures finally paid off Feb. 16 with the dedication and blessing of new classrooms and a science lab at St. Michael School.

After Mass, Bishop Robert J. Baker blessed the addition with holy water, and students performed a musical ensemble for the dedication.

In his homily the bishop congratulated the parishioners on looking forward to the future of its youth. He had also celebrated the sacrament of confirmation with 40 parish members in the past week.

The bishop said, “The building exists to foster the development of the talents of the many who will come to this school for years to come. And they will be taught in this school that their talents are being nurtured and cultivated to give honor and glory to God.”

The school opened in 1999 with 60 students in grades kindergarten through fourth, and today has 160 students through seventh grade.

“We really didn’t know [what the growth would be like]. We thought it would take us five to six years to get where we are now,” said Sister Roberta Thoen, a Sister of St. Mary Namur and school principal.

So the school is ahead of schedule by a few years, but the January 2000 plan for development has kept it up with the pace, almost.

Last year, the fifth and sixth grade spent a cramped year in the parish center. They have now spread out, along with the seventh-graders, into the five new classrooms that were completed last summer.

For a week following completion, parents and teachers feverishly moved furniture, books and supplies from the parish center to the new classrooms. But many hands make light work, and the move was done with little confusion.

In his homily, the bishop said, “Teachers and staff members brought their additional personal expertise to the scene. And now this beautiful edifice of learning, with our blessing, will give honor and glory to God.”

He also said, “Time is a precious commodity. It is seen as something we all have so little of. Time provides us an opportunity to do good or to do evil. In building this school for the benefit of our young people, you chose to use precious time in a constructive way. And that building will provide a space and a time for people to continue to do good, to give greater honor and glory to God.”

Next year, the addition will be full when the school expands to include eighth grade.

The development plan also called for an 800-square-foot science lab, which was completed in June. The lab has the traditional science tables, microscopes, a biosphere and an aquarium, to name a few of its amenities. The school also hopes to get on-line with the weather station.

Sister Thoen hopes to keep each class size to 25 students. Right now, the classes are full, except for the fourth grade which has a few spots available.

The school serves the parishes of St. Andrew’s in Myrtle Beach, Precious Blood in Pawleys Island, St. James in Conway and St. Mary’s in Georgetown.

Msgr. Thomas Duffy, pastor, placed the Ten Commandments in the school last year, during the nationwide discussion of its display in public places.

“Instead of complaining about where we can’t have it, we should first try to display it ourselves,” said the pastor. “It’s important to post them where we can post them, especially in our schools and parishes.

“They remind we who believe in the Ten Commandments to try to manifest them in the way we live.”

The bishop addressed this topic in his homily. He said, “May I suggest that Msgr. Duffy help us answer that question [of why we continue on in the pursuit of Catholic education] in placing the Ten Commandments in our school, indicating our right to teach and preach values and beliefs in this school, which are critical for the survival of civilization. A Catholic school can do that, but it takes the treasures of a lot of people to make that happen. Thank you for sharing your treasure to help this noble American Catholic tradition continue.

“May our blessing of the new St. Michael’s school today give honor and glory to God as that school helps its students become good and faithful stewards of the time, talents and treasure God has given to them.”