By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
In an atmosphere of hope and exhilaration, Bishop Kevin J. Farrell on April 17 announced a $6 million gift to renovate Bishop Dunne Catholic School, positioning the 51-year-old Oak Cliff school to continue serving and enhancing southern Dallas for many decades to come.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, public servants and the Bishop Dunne community joined Bishop Farrell in the school’s gymnasium to celebrate the investment in Catholic education and southern Dallas’ economic growth.
“This may be the most important day in the history of Bishop Dunne Catholic School,” said Dunne 1980 graduate John Denton in kicking off a spirited program of speakers with ties to the school and the city’s southern sector, including Dallas Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins, a 1974 Bishop Dunne graduate.
Bishop Farrell received a standing ovation from the city officials, donors and school’s staff and students when he took the podium.
He spoke about the investment in creating great citizens.
“This is a great day not only for Bishop Dunne High School but this is a great day for this whole community and for this whole southern sector of Dallas,” Bishop Farrell said. “The best thing that we can possibly do is to educate future generations.”
Bishop Farrell recalled how favorably impressed he was by the spirit and values that greeted him during his first tour of Bishop Dunne six years ago.
As for making the gift to the school and its community, Bishop Farrell underscored the can-do spirit of cooperation as a force for good.
“This is a great example of how I believe that the public sector, the private sector and the whole community of faith can work together,” he said.
Bishop Dunne president Kate Dailey, who has been at the school for 18 years, said that the gift will cover rebuilding the school’s infrastructure, including a new air conditioning and heating system; electrical upgrades; reconfigured classrooms, and a new auditorium.
“The school will be much greener, more energy efficient and a more environmentally friendly facility,” Dailey said. “Now everyone can be proud of this reconfigured and rebooted facility.”
Mayor Rawlings praised the students assembled in the bleachers.
“You look handsome,” he said. “You look beautiful. You look SMART!”
Among its distinguishing features, Bishop Dunne, with an enrollment of 570, is riding a streak of 13 consecutive years of having 100 percent of its graduates accepted to colleges and universities.
As the pep-rally atmosphere escalated, the mayor, whose GrowSouth initiative aims for business development in southern Dallas, called Bishop Dunne a “shining example” of inspired strategies for preparing future leaders.
“You have been a treasure to this city,” Mayor Rawlings told Bishop Farrell during the mayor’s address on what he called “one of the most important investments to be made in southern Dallas this year.”
The mayor praised the Catholic schools in Dallas.
“We’ve got some of the best Catholic schools throughout the whole nation,” he said. “Bishop Dunne is a shining jewel in that crown.”
In addressing the crowd, Bishop Dunne student body president Victor Lopez thanked Bishop Farrell for making “this amazing commitment” to the future of the school and southern Dallas.
Lopez said that the students will cherish Bishop Dunne’s legacy.
“We pledge to continue to live the mission of Bishop Dunne, which is to act on the Gospel message through our involvement in social justice issues and service to the community, and to become the best people we can become through our academic studies and student activities,” Lopez said.
The Bishop Dunne choir sang as the event built to a conclusion highlighted by a balloon drop from the gym’s rafters.
When school resumes this fall, students and staff members will experience a whole new climate, literally and figuratively.
Isabel Arista, Bishop Dunne’s director of facilities, said that the renovations began March 9 and that a test run of the new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system is scheduled for July 13. Dailey said that the new auditorium should be finished in October.
Said Bishop Farrell: “Bishop Dunne, along with our parishes and elementary schools of the Diocese of Dallas, has a very long history of serving the southern Dallas community and with this gift we pledge to continue that service into the future.”