AVONDALE — The first Catholic high school to serve the growing number of Catholic students and families in the far West Valley is about to mark a major milestone.

Hundreds of future students, their families and community leaders will be on site as the groundbreaking begins for the construction of St. John Paul II Catholic High School. The special event is scheduled for 10 a.m., Jan. 27, and is open to the public.

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Opening in time for the 2018 academic year, the Diocese of Phoenix’s newest high school is named after St. John Paul II, whose leadership and call to holiness during his 27-year papacy resonates to this day. Arizona residents still treasure the memory of the Holy Father’s visit to Phoenix in 1987, where he touched the lives of hundreds of thousands.

“Building a new Catholic high school in the West Valley is a clear statement about the importance of young Catholics in the Church’s life and mission today,” Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said. “St. John Paul II Catholic High School demonstrates our commitment to the wonderful communities that make up the West Valley, and our steadfast desire to assist parents in preparing their children for their unique and vital mission in society, as friends and witnesses of Jesus Christ.”

Nashville Dominicans

St. John Paul II, the seventh Catholic high school within the Diocese of Phoenix, is led by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, a community of religious sisters who are new to Arizona. The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, commonly referred to as the “Nashville Dominicans” due to their historical roots in the city dating back to 1860, are acclaimed for their expertise in Catholic education and for their academic and spiritual leadership.

Sr. Mary Jordan Hoover, OP, is the principal of St. John Paul II Catholic High School, and is one of the three sisters that are providing leadership for the new school. She began working with the planning team for the new school in April.

“There is excitement in the West Valley as the plans for the school unfold,” Sr. Mary Jordan said. “We have met parents, students and parishioners who welcome the school and look forward to being founding members of the community.”

Fundraising for the $23 million school will begin in the near future as part of a comprehensive diocesan-wide campaign that will unfold over the next five years.

This architect’s rendering depicts the forthcoming St. John Paul II High School from the southeast street perspective.

“At the heart of our Catholic schools are communities that support faith, knowledge and service. By focusing on these three aspects, Catholic schools prepare students to use their God-given talents to the fullest,” MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Phoenix, said. “We are blessed as a diocese to be building a new Catholic high school that will form students in their faith and academics and outreach to the community.

A yearlong feasibility study and community support confirmed the need for a new Catholic high school in the region, according to Church officials. The West Valley has experienced high growth in recent years and is projected to continue for the next decade. Two nearby Catholic schools, St. John Vianney and St. Thomas Aquinas, continue to experience growth in enrollment. Religious education and youth programs at both parishes are at record-high numbers.

Bourgade Catholic High School, which turned 50 in 2012 and sits on 31st Avenue south of Camelback Road, is the farthest west Catholic campus that offers a secondary education. St. John Paul II Catholic High School is farther West, in Avondale with nearby Goodyear and Buckeye, both ranked among the nation’s top 15 fastest growing cities. It is steps away from St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church and School.