By Nicole Hennessy
An 84-year-old cafeteria at Saint Joseph Academy, after two summers worth of construction, will be an open space featuring a wall of windows overlooking the Rocky River Reservation and a rooftop learning area.
Groundbreaking took place on March 19.
Crowded into a small tent lined with students were members of the community.
To start things off, Sr. Patricia Kozak gave an invocation.
“I would like to invoke the name and the powerful spirit of the Mother St. George Bradley, who followed the spirit of God to Cleveland, Ohio in 1872, establishing the Sisters of Saint Joseph in the city,” she began. “I’d like to invoke the name and the spirit of Mother Theresa Fitzmaurice who bought this wonderful, expansive property, moving both the congregation and the academy here. They would both be so proud of what’s happening.”
Following this were comments from members of the project’s steering committee, blessings and admiration of the school.
This $4 million project, SJA president May Ann Corrigan-Davis said, has been in planning for about five years.
“In addition to this new expanded cafeteria and kitchen, we’re also gonna upgrade all the infrastructure — the electricity, the heating, the fire alarm,” she said.
Of the rooftop area, Corrigan-Davis added, “It’s giving us an opportunity to embrace the campus even more.”
This project will double the size of SJA’s cafeteria, which is too small to serve the school’s needs. Currently, half of the girls have to eat lunch in the auditorium.
Back in the tent, the surrounding ground having yet to be broken, chair of SJA’s board of directors Ann Marie Pecon said she’s a proud graduate of the academy.
“This is a wonderful school,” she said, adding, as Corrigan-Davis had expressed, that she looks forward to the sense of community that the new cafeteria will provide as soon as fall 2012.
“While the exterior of our main campus building is beautiful, the infrastructure is in need of renovation,” continued Pecon. “So we initiated the ‘Expanding Minds, Building Futures, Raising Leaders’ capital campaign. A banner hangs in the front of the campus with this logo.
In addition to the physical upgrades, the new dining hall will also strive to provide healthier options. And the electrical upgrade will allow for increased internet connectivity.
While the construction which will be completed at the end of summer 2013 will be handled by professionals, a learning opportunity will not be wasted. A group of SJA students will work with these professionals during each step and in each area of the process. Standing in a line at the edge of the tent, Corrigan-Davis introduces them.
“A number of these girls will be working with the engineers, the architects, a number will be working with the construction managers and a number will represent the academy,” she says before reading off a list of 19 names, separating them by grade.
Later, Maureen Russell Harper, chief of communications for the City of Cleveland, shared her story of being a student at SJA and Sr. Nancy Conway and Sr. Jeanne Cmolik gave one last blessing after which pine branches were dipped in holy water sprinkled on the surrounding ground.
Then, picking up shovels adorned with purple bows, everyone who had spoken Monday afternoon dug into the ground, just a bit, symbolizing progress.