Key leaders of St. Francis Xavier's ongoing capital campaign ceremoniously breaks ground for the school's final building Jan. 27. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Key leaders of St. Francis Xavier’s ongoing capital campaign ceremoniously breaks ground for the school’s final building Jan. 27. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

The heavens helped one school facing its second groundbreaking in three years switch things up a bit.

Dirt and dust normally fly during such events. Record rainfall over the weekend made for a ceremonial “mudbreaking” instead. Only gentle drops remained after morning Mass Jan. 27 allowing hundreds of St. Francis Xavier students, families and donors to celebrate the milestone.

A brief program had them reflecting on the parish’s founding forces 85 years prior and recalling the first days of the lofty $23 million capital campaign in 2006. It also had them processing out of the gym, which was part of the first completed phase two years ago.

Jesuit Father Dan Sullivan, pastor, somberly led them to the construction site by ringing an old-fashioned bell. He said the sounds were in the spirit of St. Francis Xavier who often rang a bell to gather the people for religious instruction. School leaders enlisted the help of two students to help with the shoveling.

“I remember us sitting in the library looking at a blank wall, saying, ‘What are we going to do?’” Fr. Sullivan recalled of the project’s infancy.

Parish and school leaders knew neither the church nor the school had benefited from major upgrades since the church was completed in 1959. They also knew the classrooms needed to be more energy efficient and technologically sound.

“We’re now at the third and final phase to complete the courtyard,” Fr. Sullivan said.

The school’s south wing will form a two-story U-shaped campus with the courtyard facing the church. It will hold administration offices for the school and parish’s religious education, three general classrooms plus dedicated music and art rooms.

Screen shot 2013-01-28 at 2.55.35 PMThe school’s second-graders, who have literally grown right along with the campus, opened and closed the formal program through song.

Greg Stanton, mayor of Phoenix and a St. Francis Xavier parishioner, complimented them on their blue hard hats. He also told them that they stood at a very special place: a Catholic school in the heart of the city dedicated to molding quality Catholics.

“This is a place where leaders are developed, where leaders are made,” Stanton said.

Students behind him proudly held all five of the school’s trademark signs. They display each student’s expectations for learning.

Kim Cavnar, principal, expressed gratitude for the physical and spiritual work being done at the school.

“We’re just pinching ourselves with delight,” she said.

Future campus projects will focus on creating a unified look between the school and parish complete with a sacred walk, prayer garden, new parish center, hall, plaza and church renovations. Another $13 million or so is needed for completion.