Child care options have expanded for teachers at some Mishawaka and South Bend Catholic schools.
Saints and Squires Daycare, a ministry of St. Joseph Parish serving teachers at Mishawaka Catholic School and Marian High School, opened a second location Aug. 11. The first location is currently at full capacity. Opening a second site allows the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend to continue to respond to the call to do what supports families and all human life.
Offering low-cost day care is one of many ways he was blessed to support teachers who are dedicated to working in the Catholic school environment, Marian principal Mark Kirzeder said when the first location opened in 2019. Add the vision and connections of school treasurer Laurie Haverty – also human relations director for the diocese – and an expansion of the mission ensued.
“How can we best support our employees with young families, and how can we encourage an in-person workplace? These are some of the questions that encouraged us to look at our options,” Haverty said. “At a very basic level, this is our effort to support these teachers and parish staff members who make the financial sacrifice to teach in our schools and work in our parishes.”
“The day care is run as a break-even ministry so that it is affordable for the parents to work in our schools and parishes,” explained Carl Loesch in an email. Loesch is head of the Secretariat for Pastoral Ministries and Discipleship and building manager of the St. John Paul II Center, the new location.
Adding diocesan employees to those who would benefit from having low-cost day care in proximity was an additional goal.
“It’s ideal for them, and it’s ideal for Marian teachers because they can literally walk across the parking lot to see their children,” Haverty said.
Much like identifying the convenient location, converting the space inside the St. John Paul II Center to a child-appropriate facility had a providential flavor. Rooms were painted, carpets cleaned and surplus donated furniture trucked over from the St. Joseph Parish location. Window coverings will be installed shortly, and a fence is being erected just outside the dedicated day care space so an outdoor courtyard can be directly accessed.
Potentially large expenses, such as enabling appropriate heating and cooling systems for the space, were resolved with surprisingly minimal expense.
“She had the space available over there at the John Paul II Center and thought it would be a great idea. They emptied the room out, and we came in and fixed it up as best we could,” said Karen Deranek, director of both day care locations and a former preschool teacher at St. Jude School. Deranek was also a teacher at the MCS location for a year prior to becoming director.
The St. John Paul II Center location opened to diocesan staff and teachers at Mishawaka Catholic, Marian and nearby St. Jude schools. Aug. 11, following an Aug. 9 open house. The ages of children accepted are from 6 weeks to 3 years (by Aug. 1).
Both Saints and Squires locations are visibly Catholic, much to the benefit of the young minds, Deranek noted. Photos of saints and popes, statues of Mary and crucifixes line the hallways, classrooms and the entrance to St. John Paul II Center and the day care space at St. Joseph Parish. Age-appropriate prayers, crafts and songs familiar to Catholic families are part of each child’s day.
Offering an affordable day care option is one way Deranek feels the diocese supports the family needs of its staff and schoolteachers. “It’s welcoming for us to be able to offer this as part of our pro-life mission,” she said.
“It’s such a great feeling to know those teachers and staff who use it have their children in a comfortable setting and know they’re safe and loved – and it’s affordable,” added Haverty. Tuition, which is a blanket fee for up to full use of the center’s operating hours is approximately half the going day care rate for the young age group.
Lauren and Thomas Meyers greatly appreciate the proximity of the new Saints and Squires location, Lauren said. She was grateful when the first location opened in 2019, but the new one is even closer to their work. Both parents are teachers at Marian.
Two-year-old Daniel loves the atmosphere at the second Saints and Squires site, said Mom, who can look out her classroom window and across the school parking lot to see his classroom space and outdoor play area. “We can take one car to work, pick him up right away when we’re done … and now, anytime we drive by Marian and the JPII Center, he says ‘My school, my school!’”
The proximity of the day care has made an impression on some of the students at Marian, who see it as fulfillment of the Church’s dedication to affirming life, Lauren said. Classroom conversations occasionally turn to the couple’s children and how they are cared for, and their students then see that “the diocese really cares about their employees, that they care about being pro-family. That’s another witness to the community of our schools as well.”
Current enrollment is at the JPII center is six children, with room for a maximum of 10. Both locations are open from 7:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the school year, plus a few days before and after. The site is closed during the summer, spring break, Christmas break and other full-day school holidays or vacations.
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