Ground blessed for new Catholic School

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Anne Marie Amacher
From left, Katie Selden, Lourdes Catholic School-Bettendorf principal; Father Ben Snyder, parochial vicar of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish-Bettendorf; Father Jason Crossen, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes; Father Rich Adam, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish-Bettendorf; Father Ken Kuntz, diocesan administrator; and Father Thom Hennen, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral-Davenport; break ground for the new St. Joan of Arc Catholic School in northeast Bettendorf May 29.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

BETTENDORF — Four school buses pulled up to the building site of the future St. Joan of Arc Catholic School on May 29. Two-hundred-fifty-two students from Lourdes Catholic School walked down the gravel work drive and grabbed plastic hard hats to wear for the groundbreaking ceremony.

Piles of dirt and various pieces of construction equipment that made up the landscape will pave the way for a school serving 630 students in daycare through eighth grade. The Lourdes students joined other groundbreaking guests from the Bettendorf parishes of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. John Vianney, city officials from Bettendorf, LeClaire, Princeton and Riverdale and Scott County representatives. St. Joan of Arc Foundation has raised $17.5 million so far in its $44-million campaign for the 77,990-square-foot school at Hopewell Avenue and Criswell Street anticipated to open in Fall 2025.

Lourdes Catholic School Principal Katie Selden emceed the event, held the day before the feast day of St. Joan of Arc. “This is an exciting event that is marking the start of something truly special,” she told the gathering. Father Rich Adam, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish, opened with prayer to celebrate the “monumental groundbreaking of our new Catholic school, St. Joan of Arc… Today’s groundbreaking is so important for today’s youth and for future generations.”

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Selden said the students helped choose the school’s name more than a year ago. “Imagine what this (site) will look like a year from now. The tractors will be gone and we’ll have a beautiful new school.”

Father Adam read a letter from Archbishop Thomas Zinkula, the former Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport, who was unable to attend the ceremony. He said he wished he could have attended the momentous groundbreaking. “During the process leading up to today’s joyful event, I was truly impressed and proud of the close collaboration of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and St. John Vianney Parish, as well as the enthusiasm and energy of the leaders of this truly visionary project.” The archbishop added, “May the new school be a place where students and teachers imbued with the words of truth, search for the wisdom that guides the Christian, Catholic faith and strive wholeheartedly to stand by Christ, their teacher. God bless you all.”

“Ditto to what the archbishop said,” quipped Diocesan Administrator Father Ken Kuntz, who shared a memory about a building project that happened when he was in sixth grade.  “…We built a new school in my home parish, St. Mary’s in West Burlington. The cost of that school was $70,000.” The crowd laughed.

Father Kuntz commended those who have supported the project with their determination, conviction and hard work “because you love your children and you want them to have a Catholic education.” That gift, he said, “will influence these kids for the rest of their lives.”

Caitlin Russell, president of Russell Construction and mother of four students at Lourdes, told the gathering, “This groundbreaking marks a significant journey for our community and I am thrilled to be a part of it. … What we begin today is the continuation of your dedication and perseverance and will continue to grow into something incredible that will nurture and educate many generations to come.”

She quoted from Proverbs (24:3-4): “By wisdom, a house is built. And through understanding, it is established. Through knowledge, its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasurers.” Russell added, “May this new facility be filled with wisdom, understanding and knowledge nurturing the beautiful treasures that are our children.”

Lourdes students Max Garciapena and Elsie Meier shared their thoughts. Max said, “This will be our new place to learn about God, while learning about math, science, language arts and many more (subjects).” Elsie said, “The heart of the school will be the chapel and commons area. These spaces will be multi-functional spaces for spiritual growth, gathering and shared meals.”

Father Jason Crossen, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, blessed the ground. “Heavenly Father, the work that began years ago on this project and the work beginning today, enliven our faith and make us all so very grateful.” He asked for protection for construction site workers and asked for the intercession of St. Joan of Arc to “bless and consecrate this ground.” Fathers Crossen and Adam sprinkled holy water over the site and students.

“What an awesome event — our St. Joan of Arc School groundbreaking today!” exclaimed Father Adam. “Any project of this magnitude certainly doesn’t happen overnight and isn’t without the visions, support, help and a whole lot of prayers of so many in the Bettendorf Catholic communities.  It’s with great gratitude that we’re able to come together and celebrate our hopes and grandeur of St. Joan of Arc School!”

“It is hard to believe after years of discussion, this new school is coming to fruition,” said  Les Lipinski, a St. John Vianney Parish trustee. Fellow trustee Kathy Langley added, “This is the beginning of a bright, new Catholic community” in northeast Bettendorf.

Selden thanked the donors who have made possible “the opportunity to build a state of the art Catholic school. We can already feel the presence of St. Joan of Arc leading this project and we are dedicated to maintaining the spirit of Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Bernadette and St. John Vianney as we strengthen the Catholic community of Bettendorf.”

“After years of discussions, planning and many meetings it is very exciting to see it all come to life at the ground breaking of St. Joan of Arc School today,” Father Crossen said. “The prayers and work of so many people are coming to reality and it is exciting to see.  I am very grateful for all the good people God has put into place to allow us to bring Catholic education to Bettendorf into the 21st century through this new school.”

Anne Marie Amacher
Students from Lourdes Catholic School in Bettendorf watch the ceremonial groundbreaking of St. Joan of Arc Catholic School May 29.

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