At a place that can trace its history back to the 1880s, Saint Anthony Catholic School marked another milestone on June 3 with a ceremony to bless the completion of a renovated building constructed in 1922.
It was the second time in two years that Saint Anthony Catholic School paused to celebrate the completion of a construction project.
The first event occurred on Feb. 5, 2015, when the Rev. Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, presided over the dedication of the school’s new building. That building, designed to architecturally match the existing building, was funded through the Diocese’s Forward in Faith Capital Campaign.
At last week’s event, Abbott Isaac Camacho, of Saint Leo Abbey, presided over the ceremony to bless the school’s newly renovated 1922 building. The Saint Anthony Parish community is covering the cost of the $1.8 million project.
Those gathered at last week’s ceremony expressed gratitude for the education the school provides.
Retired U.S. Army Col. Peter Quinn was among those attending the ceremony. His son, Gabriel, just graduated from the school, and his twin daughters, Faith and Grace, are seventh-graders.
“We got here three years ago. This is a pearl of joy for us,” Quinn said. He noted that he searched all of the Diocese, including St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Brandon, before choosing to enroll his children at Saint Anthony.
“I wanted a place where my parish life and my kids’ school life would be one and the same.
“When I found this place, with the sisters in residence, that was it.
“The surrounding community is just so supportive,” Quinn said.
Leo Brand and Kyle Christmas, both members of the Knights of Columbus, were there, dressed in their full regalia.
They came to present the school with a gift: A pole and a stand, to hold the school’s banner.
“They’ve always borrowed ours for years,” Brand said. So, the Knights of Columbus San Antonio Council 1768 decided to purchase one for the school, he said.
Christmas noted that one of his family members helped build the school decades ago. “He’s got his name on one of the bricks up on the top of the roof,” he said.
Christmas said he’s pleased to see that the school is building for the future.
“It’s nice to see that they are expanding and that they’re getting busy enough to expand, that people are taking advantage of a Catholic education,” Christmas said.
Pasco County Commissioner Ted Schrader was at the event — but not in his role as an elected leader. He has closer ties to the church and school.
“I’m an alumnus. It’s my parish. My church. It’s a great part of our community. My parents were actually married in the church,” Schrader said.
The renovation of the 1922 school building marks a proud moment for the parish and school, Schrader said.
“The community just came together. They recognized the importance of a Catholic education,” Schrader said.
Leigh DiMaria has three children at the school.
“I love the fact that they were able to restore a lot of the old elements,” DiMaria said.
She’s pleased that her children, Faith, Vincent and Nolan, attend Saint Anthony, and that her family is part of the school’s community.
“The community around here, the support, I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s amazing,” DiMaria said.
Abbott Camacho presided over the ceremony, but others took part, as well. Rev. Garry Welsh, the current pastor, Sister Alice Ottapurackal, the current principal, and Sister Roberta Bailey, the Prioress at Holy Name Monastery and former principal of the school, also offered remarks.
Students took part, too. Hannah Fox, led the assembly in “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You,” Lindsay Golliday read a selection from scripture, and Aiden Fox and Adeline Shiver were altar servers.
Abbott Camacho reminded those gathered that “one of the characteristics of us Benedictines (who founded the school) is to welcome the other, as Christ, no matter who the other is. To see in them, the image of Christ.
“It’s not about the teachers. It’s not about the good reputation of the school. It’s about the other. Can we see Christ in the other, no matter their background? If we see in them, Christ, things start to change for good,” Abbott Camacho said.
Sister Bailey recalled Saint Anthony Catholic School’s rich history, and noted that it has faced some tough times.
“We owe a great deal of credit to the pastors that were in this area. There was a day when the principal and the bookkeeper would come up with budget, based on the tuition that we knew we could collect. And, whatever we thought we couldn’t collect, we gave that debt to the pastors, and they figured out how to support the school,” Sister Bailey said.
But through prayer, God’s blessings, the help of the Diocese, and the generosity of the parish and community, there’s now a new school building and a renovated building, Sister Ottapurackal said.
“Our school looks beautiful, and it is ready for 21st century learning. We are proud of how it came out, because of God’s blessing and people’s help,” the principal said.
Published June 8, 2016