Fr. Thomas Eckert, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish, cuts the ribbon, officially opening the school’s new $8 million multipurpose facility, Centro Santa Cruz as Principal Doug Weivoda, far left, watches, Dec. 14. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

GOODYEAR — What began as a dream 25 years ago and coalesced with a pencil drawing on a napkin is now a reality, with students at St. John Vianney School able to escape the summertime heat while playing, performing and learning — and nurturing their Catholic faith.

Joining students and school and parish administrators, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted dedicated Centro Santa Cruz, a brand-new multipurpose facility along with 10 new classrooms Dec. 14.

Steadily rising enrollment has driven the need for additional space at the school.

In addition to a gymnasium that can double as an auditorium, the facility includes a full working stage and kitchen. Bleacher and floor seating can accommodate 1,000 spectators when the facility serves as an auditorium.

“It is absolutely beyond imagination and my wildest dreams. Today is such a wonderful celebration of everything we have worked so hard for during the last few years,” beamed Fr. Thomas Eckert, CSC, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish who spearheaded the project through many of its stages.

The logo on the gym floor. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

The entire project adds 21,460 square feet to the school, whose growth over the past several years required expansion to offer the level of education that parish and diocesan leaders say is needed to ensure a high-quality, Catholic-based education for youngsters.

“We currently have 402 students. Four years ago, we only had 196,” said Fr. Eckert, who predicted there will be more than 500 students within three to four years.

Students and faculty at St. John Vianney are overjoyed with the addition, pointing to more educational, cultural, spiritual and athletic opportunities.

“It’s a great gym. I’m looking forward to basketball and maybe volleyball next year. I’m glad we’re moving into new classrooms,” exclaimed Gabriella Ventura, 11.

“This is a great place for everyone to study, do plays with this awesome stage; have fun. It’s going to make me feel inspired by the Lord to sing,” added Andrew De Lao, 12.

St. John Vianney School students cheer as the ribbon is cut. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

Campus minister and summer camp director Alejandra Azero said she is “beyond excited,” noting that most camp activities can now be moved indoors.

“Many different students can use it all at once, and it’s awesome to be able to have that,” added Azero, who also serves as the parish’s youth minister. She pointed out that catechism classes for middle school and area high school students that meet at night can also use Centro Santa Cruz.

Bishop Olmsted said educating the whole person is the mission of Catholic schools and that this new facility will help St. John Vianney continue to do that.

The gym/auditorium floor is seen as the audience listens to Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted onstage during the dedication of the school’s new $8 million multipurpose facility, Centro Santa Cruz, Dec. 14. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

“The light of Christ shines through us when we live our faith. A Catholic school helps each student discover the gifts that he or she has. This is what we celebrate. It is a great joy for me to be here today.”

Fr. Eckert said the finished project exceeded his expectations.

“The best way I can describe it is when you try to imagine the blessings you or your community will receive from God, your greatest imagination is only a small part of what God will actually