IMG_7206Students at Bourgade Catholic High School finally have access to one of the oldest buildings on campus — the Hillmann Center— and they have a new hall to go with it. The project also revamped the chapel in a neighboring structure.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted joined Fr. Kurt Perrera, campus chaplain, for the official grand opening and blessing of both buildings Sept. 10. The bishop also ceremoniously cut a ribbon inside Blue Angels Hall, a new 4,000-square-foot multi-use space. It’s named in honor of the school’s first mascot.

Regardless of whether they identify as a “Blue Angel” or a “Golden Eagle,” the bishop told every Bourgade Catholic student that their mission is to love Christ and live with joy. Earlier, he addressed theology students gathered for Mass in the remodeled chapel. The bishop said how they conduct themselves will leave more of a legacy than any walls or building ever could.

Students will find examples of those who lived a life well-served in the presence of the tabernacle and in St. Elizabeth Seton, the foundress of U.S. Catholic schools. Bishop Olmsted installed a first-class relic of her beneath the altar. A painting honors the School Sisters of Notre Dame who served as principal for nearly half of Bourgade’s history.

The bishop talked about freedom and the choice to wander away from or toward God during his homily.

In choosing the former, “our world closes in on itself. We even feel like life is not worth living,” the bishop said, “but in the tabernacle and altar, we can discover life again. Here, we come into the presence of Christ. Here, we are never alone.”

Before consecrating the new altar, the bishop advised students to use the time they’re given wisely and to be educated, “to be led out” beyond ignorance and fear and be brought into the light of His presence.

“This chapel and this altar will greatly assist each person in the pursuit of freedom,” the bishop said.

Campus and diocesan leaders, who spent years trying to discern the best use for the Hillmann Center, were excited to see it resurrected. The two-story 22,000-square-foot structure on the southeast side of campus once served as a priest house and community retreat space. Now, it’s a student hub which showcases Bourgade Catholic’s history through photos and memorabilia.

“It truly was imagination, creativity and determination that transformed the Hillmann Center into what we have today,” MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent of the diocese, said.

The campus ministry office draws in students like sardines, especially at lunchtime, and school liturgies will move from the cafeteria to Blue Angels Hall. The center gives Bourgade’s music program adequate classroom, practice and storage space.

The second floor remains unfinished, but will house department offices, meeting rooms, advancement and admissions.

“This is just the first step in tremendous growth for the school,” said Michael Geddes, a longtime local champion of Catholic education.

He chaired the $5.2 million campaign that supported the remodel and building. The community raised funds 10 years ago. Some of it supported previous campus improvements.

Future campus facelifts as funding is available includes retractable seating, projector/screen and sound system for Blue Angels Hall. A nearby warming kitchen also seeks commercial quality equipment. Administrators plan to ultimately put pews and kneelers in the chapel.