Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares cuts the ribbon at the St. Vincent de Paul School expansion project dedication. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares cuts the ribbon at the St. Vincent de Paul School expansion project dedication. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Nearly 150 Catholic schools nationwide closed or consolidated during the 2012-13 academic year, but campuses in the Diocese of Phoenix continue to grow.

St. Vincent de Paul and St. Francis Xavier schools wrapped up expansion projects in recent weeks. Annunciation Catholic School in Cave Creek is ready to launch a capital campaign to keep up with projected growth for the near future.

The Dec. 6 dedication and blessing of the third and final building phase at St. Francis Xavier School completed a total rebuilding of the campus. It also completed an “Etched in Our Hearts Capital Campaign” that launched in 2005.

The latest phase added a music center along with a modern, two-story facility for religious education administration, the nurse’s office and four classrooms. The E. L. Wiegand Music Center honors the foundation whose $134,000 grant funded the new Jesuit Music Program. The school and parish now have access to a grand piano, an iPad Learning Lab and choir risers.

“The Jesuit Music Program is a special project that illustrates the Jesuit Order’s strong connection and commitment to the arts as a way and means to experience God,” said Liz Hansen, parish manager.

It also affords parish choirs adequate rehearsal space and future programming for the parish and community.

Two modular buildings from St. Francis Xavier’s former campus found new life at St. Vincent de Paul School roughly seven miles east. They now serve as a second set of seventh and eighth-grade classrooms, which gave the campus adequate space to become double-graded again. Students joined their families, alumni, staff and religious leaders for a blessing and dedication Nov. 23.

Sr. Julie Kubasak, principal and a Daughter of Charity, said the expansion was a necessity. St. Vincent de Paul had 292 students five years ago. Enrollment has steadily increased and now stands at 556.

Declining enrollment forced the 54-year-old Maryvale campus to only offer one classroom per grade since 1990. Eight years later, a preschool opened. It now includes two pre-kindergarten classrooms too.

St. Vincent de Paul’s latest expansion project also brought a doublewide modular to campus for the development and other administrative offices.

“We have only begun completing God’s initial plan,” Sr. Julie said. She prayed that future growth will continue with God’s inspiration.

Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares diligently blessed each classroom and office space. He prayed that the lessons taught within them, especially in art, lift the spirit and soul to the things of God.

“What a beautiful privilege it is for us to be in the presence of God and to see His blessings — how the seeds of faith were planted 60 years ago and how they bear fruit today,” the bishop said.

Donors are sowing those seeds at Annunciation Catholic School in Cave Creek. They already funded a modular building for grades k-3. Students moved in this fall, but they remain scattered across five temporary buildings on St. Gabriel Parish property.

Student enrolment began with 23 students when Annunciation opened in 2009 and has ballooned to 158. School leaders will launch an $8.5 million capital campaign early next year with hopes of building a permanent, two-story campus by the fall of 2015. The future campus will better handle school growth and provide security via an enclosed campus.

Successful completion of the campaign will turn waiting lists into class rosters and keep siblings together. The school turned some families away due to lack of space.

“We receive constant calls for next year, and even two and three years down the road,” said Sharon Pristash, principal.

She said strong test scores and happy students attract interest.

The completed campus will better serve the 5,000 Catholic families in the immediate area. Annunciation Catholic School is the only Catholic school north of Loop 101 drawing students from three nearby parishes and 11 others.