School and church addition wows them at St. Vincent’s

The words “rejoice” and “wow” were frequently heard last weekend at dedication ceremonies for a major school and church expansion project at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Peoria.

Noting that the dedication took place on the Third Sunday of Advent, known as “Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday,” Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, opened the Mass preceding the dedication by telling those present “if there ever was a parish that should rejoice, it is St. Vincent de Paul.”

The completion of the $6 million project — including new parish offices attached to the church and renovations of the original school building — was cause for rejoicing, but the “wows” were heard whenever someone got a first glimpse of the gymnasium inside the new school addition.

In fact, Bishop Jenky opened the dedication ceremonies on the stage of the new gym with that very word. The gym features bleacher seating for 520 on one side, a stage for the arts on the other, and a gleaming wood floor large enough to be divided into two practice courts for basketball and volleyball.

More than 900 people attended the first function at the new addition — the school’s annual Christmas program — on Monday night. The first basketball game in the new facility is scheduled for Jan. 2.

“It’s amazing to see how much has been accomplished,” said Father Jason Gary, administrator. Plans for the project were announced just over a year ago, and more than $4 million was pledged through a capital campaign on the theme “Renewing All Things in Christ.”

Expressions of gratitude for the generosity of parishioners were repeatedly voiced at both the dedication event Dec. 14 and at a celebratory dinner and dance the previous evening.

“Your generosity has had a lasting impact on teaching and learning at St. Vincent de Paul School,” said teacher Katie Hogan, who noted project planners made a point of involving teachers in the design process.

“They know the most about what this building needs to be,” said Father Gray, who thanked the various committees involved in the project’s success. He also announced that St. Vincent de Paul School has qualified to make application for federal recognition as a “Blue Ribbon School.”

Don Western, one of the campaign co-chairs, said the project shows the parish’s “obedience to God’s call to go forth and teach.”

Western and others praised the vision of founding pastor, the late Msgr. Robert Livingston, who served the parish until 1994. A plaque was blessed at the dedication ceremonies naming the building project in his honor.

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