DEVILS LAKE – St. Joseph Catholic School in Devils Lake broke ground this week on a new chapel and learning center that will provide the growing student population with places to worship and study.
The 65-year-old school in 2018 added a seventh-grade class and an eighth-grade class the next year, said Michelle Clouse, St. Joseph School principal. The school’s chapel is too small to hold the entire student body of 188, so for the past two years, students have attended the weekly Friday school Mass in the gymnasium.
The new St. Mary's Academy Chapel will hold 250 students and staff and will include statues, pews with kneelers and other traditional Catholic church features that are not possible to have in the gym. Each week, school staff set up and remove a portable altar and the chairs that the students and staff sit in during the Eucharistic liturgical service.
“It’s always been a dream to have this chapel, and have this proper place for worshipping the Lord, and now it’s coming true," Clouse said. “It’s a blessing to be a part of this.”
Meanwhile, the St. Joseph Learning Resource Center will be a library and STEM lab, providing the students a much-needed place to read and study, she said.
Construction is expected to begin in August.
The “Faith in our Future” campaign, which a St. Joseph Catholic Church committee launched two years ago to help finance the chapel and learning center project, raised $2.5 million. St. Joseph Catholic School students raised $5,000 of that amount by making and selling rosaries and other hand-made religious items, Clouse said.
“It’s unbelievable the faith in our Lord and the support they have for our school. It's beyond words,” Clouse said.
“The students are so excited for today,” Clouse said, as she watched children hand out shovel keychains that represented the groundbreaking, and programs to guests at the May 18 ceremony. Other students read scripture passages and spoke during the ceremony.
“It means a lot to me seeing we’re going to build a chapel and a library,” Kellan Wiberg, an eighth-grader, said in a speech during the ceremony. Wiberg, who has attended the school since he was a preschooler, will have high school religious education classes there after he graduates from eighth grade, he said.
The Rev. John Folda, bishop of the Diocese of Fargo, blessed the children and the grounds of the new chapel during the ceremony, and celebrated a Mass on the site after the groundbreaking.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here today for this special occasion,” Folda said. “I want to give thanks to you and to God.
“The addition of a new chapel and learning center at St. Joseph Catholic School is a testimony to the fact that the heart of this school is Jesus himself. He is the reason this school exists, and we seek only to know him and love him more fully through this great endeavor now beginning.”