MONROEVILLE — The easternmost Catholic school in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will now be known as St. Rose of Lima School, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades blessed the school’s new chapel and new location in a community celebration on Dec. 5.
St. Joseph School has been the parish school for St. Rose of Lima Parish in Monroeville for over 100 years, but the parish and diocese agreed that the new location in the former Monroeville Elementary School building presents an opportunity to give the school the same name as the parish’s patron saint — St. Rose of Lima — the first saint canonized from the Americas.
Bishop Rhoades celebrated Mass in a new chapel, which was sponsored by John Tippmann, Tom Tippmann and the Mary Cross Tippmann Foundation. The bishop blessed and incensed the altar and blessed the chapel. After Mass, the celebration continued with a blessing of the school building’s common areas, gymnasium and classrooms.
St. Rose Principal Stan Liponoga may have hours of hard work and preparation behind him, but feels his work is really just beginning, “We have immediate goals to increase enrollment and fill our empty seats,” he said.
He noted the school is looking at the possibilities of adding a daycare, preschool program and school bus with stops at St. Henry and around the Bishop Luers area.
Liponoga said, “I knew this day would one day come, but even as late as last evening, wondered if we would be prepared!”
The whole story through this journey has been, “If we pray, He will answer.” But back in March, 2013, when things looked bleak and some might have even started to lose hope at the stand-still with East Allen County School district, Liponoga acted on the encouragement of Dr. Mark Meyers, superintendent of Catholic Schools, “We had been at a principal’s meeting and he told me to get a statue of St. Joseph,” Lipanoga said.
After a trip to the Cathedral Bookstore to purchase the statue, Liponoga called upon his fifth graders to join him at the bell tower of the new building. “After shared prayer, I told the students about the tradition and meaning behind the statue. We called on the intercession of St. Joseph and buried the statue on the seventh of March. It was just a few short weeks later that we got the news the sale would go through!”
So, the group let the whole student body in on their story and on the last day in the new building, each was gifted with a medal of St. Joseph in thanksgiving. The statue was to be uncovered on the first day of school in the new building, but because the ground was frozen, the ceremony was delayed until the second day, Nov. 26, 2013, when boiling water was used to resurrect it.
Father Lourdino Fernandes, the parish’s devoted pastor who had the vision, bold initiative and support to move this project forward, was given a standing ovation after the Mass.
He detailed, “I am absolutely overwhelmed by what our parishioners and benefactors have done — and mostly, our Lord. My prayer is that this facility will be a center for excellence for many generations and becomes an asset, not only to St. Rose School, but the whole community. And my dream is for Catholic education here to be affordable for all.”
He continued, “It was the generous financial contributions and tremendous volunteer efforts by all who made this dream a reality.”
It was an emotional day for many. When asked what she thought of the new chapel, Theresa Sorgen, simply stated, “It is unbelievable.” The lifetime member of the parish added, “We have been praying for a long time. I never thought I would see this day. It is wonderful.”
Jodi Linder agreed, “It is amazing.” For Linder, the move was especially meaningful as she was in the first grade when the building was brand new and she attended Monroeville Elementary as a child. Her husband, Chad, was in the fourth grade — the same grades their daughter and son are in now. Linder joined the Catholic Church when they married and now they send their children, Lexi and Landri, to the beautiful, “new” facility, St. Rose School.
Two of the eighth-grade girls at St. Rose School, Erica Renninger and Hailee Wallen, were gift bearers for the Mass and served punch at the reception.
Wallen is very happy they will get to spend their final semester in the new facility and is pleased with the results of the vote to change the name of the school, “I like that our school is now the same name as our church.”
Renninger agreed, “There are a lot of great schools named St. Joseph, but now we will be unique. “
General Manager of Tippmann Properties Joe Wharton was also on hand for the celebration. Among many of his assignments for the chapel project, Wharton was responsible for finding the new pews, which were actually ordered on Ebay from Albany, N.Y.
Also instrumental in supporting those on the long list of volunteers who gave tireless hours were Carol Johnson and Marilyn Castleman. Along with the other women of the Rosary Sodality, they hosted a wonderful luncheon after the Mass and made countless meals for the workers during the long days and weeks of painting, cleaning and preparing for the move.
“We fed the multitudes,” Castleman quipped cheerfully.
Indiana State Representative Matt Lehman attended the celebration. He played a key role in getting the law changed on how long a school has to wait to be sold to the private sector.
Carolyn Kirkendall, former principal, said, “It truly is a blessing … a dream come true. Father Lourdino has challenged us to think outrageously, and we did, and today it has become a reality and we are so grateful to God and to everyone who has made this possible.”
Mary Rennels, parishioner, told Today’s Catholic, “I am the organist at St. Rose and I went to school at St. Joseph … and was married here … and am so happy to see these children and this parish blessed in such a generous way.”
Donna (Linder) Weber went through eight grades in St. Joseph School, receiving the sacraments and was married in St. Rose of Lima Church. “I hoped and prayed that this building would become available,” she said. “Today’s students are truly blessed with this new facility.”
Dr. Mark Myers, the superintendent of Catholic Schools, said, “This is the culmination of the work of a lot of people, more important, the faith of a lot of people … and the children prayed for this as well as the parents. The pastor worked very hard. Father Lourdino did a great job … and we’ll have many blessings here for many years.”
Tim Johnson, Kay Cozad and Mark Weber contributed to this story.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.