By Tim Johnson
DECATUR — After an escorted tour with Father David Voors, pastor, to bless the new gymnasium at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish and St. Joseph School in Decatur, Bishop John M. D’Arcy praised all involved who made the effort possible.
The $1 million facility is located across the street from St. Joseph School and replaces a smaller gym in the school building which dates to 1925. Construction funds were used from an over- $3 million campaign that included the gymnasium and a parish hall, which now is in the planning stages, according to St. Joseph School Principal Karla Hormann, who also serves on the building committee.
Despite a tough economy in Decatur where the unemployment rate was as high as 18 percent, Hormann told Today’s Catholic. “We’re just about done collecting (money for the parish hall), so it’s all come in very well and everybody’s still giving, even if they’ve already (completed) their pledge.”
Planned gifts assisted the building campaign known as BOOH, Building On Our Heritage, and anchored with the diocesan-wide Legacy of Faith campaign drive. “If it wouldn’t have been for all the parishioners in this area and giving, even after they had passed on, and remembering the school, we wouldn’t be here,” Hormann told Today’s Catholic after the gymnasium blessing on Dec. 18.
From studies, the parish determined a new gymnasium, a parish hall and work on the preschool facilities were priorities. The parish’s daycare and pre-kindergarten program has almost 100 children. But a donor provided the funds for the upgrades to the preschool facilities, so BOOH money was not used for those improvements.
“Think of all these people and many others who gave money so you can have this gym and grow up to be like Michael Jordan, and LeBron James and all those great players,” Bishop John M. D’Arcy told the students of St. Joseph School, parishioners and donors from St. Mary of the Assumption Parish. “So we thank (the donors). They are a sign of God’s love.”
In a brief homily at the blessing, Bishop D’Arcy reflected on a reading from St. Paul.
“Paul knew all about sports,” Bishop D’Arcy said. “He said everybody runs and only one wins the prize. Run to win the prize, the prize of eternal life.”
“We hope that you always will play fair,” he told the students and families gathered in the new gymnasium, “that your time in this gym and in the church always is seen as preparing you for life. Every day, if you have gifts — in studies, in art, in music, in athletics — you thank God for those gifts and foster them.”
Bishop D’Arcy encouraged the students to enjoy the wonderful years of youth “and to prepare yourselves for life to be married, single, priests or religious. We hope that everybody is trying to find what God wants them to do in their life.”
“Study hard, play hard. It’s a joyous gift to be young. You are only young a short time,” he said. “Learn to love God early and pray to him every night.”
Bishop D’Arcy proceeded with the blessing of the building, going from room to room and sprinkling the facility with holy water.
“With praise and thanksgiving, let us ask God, through whom all things are accomplished, to bless this new building and bless all who will use it, especially the children,” he prayed.
The gymnasium, which seats 300, will be used strictly as an athletic facility. It could be rented out for tournaments.
“And hopefully we’ll see a lot more CYO games down here too,” Hormann said. “We have a nice gym, come on down.”
St. Mary Parish dates to 1840. The first school building opened in 1881 and the present-day school facility was built in 1925.
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