By Violeta Rocha
Special to The Texas Catholic
When Erica Rangel visited her alma mater, Santa Clara of Assisi Catholic Academy, on Feb. 22, waves of nostalgia mixed with feelings of joy overcame her. Rangel, who now has two children at the West Dallas school, joined the Santa Clara community in welcoming Bishop Edward J. Burns that day as he blessed the campus’s newest addition: a 20,000-square-foot building serving both the school and church.
The building is a testament to the community’s devotion, built by virtue of fundraising efforts over the past two years that included support of a subsidy, donations, a loan and funds collected by the parents of the family and the community.
“It didn’t matter how cold or how hot it was those days we spent selling nachos and tacos every Sunday after Mass,” Rangel said. “The goal was to have a larger cafeteria for our students and better educational facilities. Those goals were achieved.”
In addition to the community fundraising effort, the $2.4 million project was made possible by the contribution of benefactors. Crystal Charity Ball gave an $850,000 grant and The Catholic Foundation purchased furniture for the classrooms. The Mike and Mary Terry Family Foundation and The Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty Foundation allocated donations for the science lab and building technology, respectively. In addition, a $384,000 bank loan was obtained to help cover costs.
Santa Clara of Assisi Principal Stephanie Matous said seeing the completed project had her “full of emotions,” expressing her gratitude to the community as the initial project called for a single-story structure, but the overwhelming support led to construction of a second floor. Matous said the first floor of the new facility will be home to the parish office, a cafeteria and other rooms while the second floor has eight classrooms, including areas for art, music and technology.
It’s the latter that excites eighth-grader Jayden Corona.
“I’m glad the technology room is big because our school is still growing,” Corona said. “We will surely have more children in the future who can take advantage of it, too.”
For Rangel, the new building exemplifies the growth the academy has seen since she graduated from the school more than a decade ago.
“Everything they have now is completely different from what we had when I was a student,” said Rangel, who now serves on the school’s advisory board. “As a community, we are united in our faith and support. That is something I want my children to see, understand and continue in their lives.”
United in Faith
In his homily, Bishop Burns praised the growth and vitality of the Santa Clara of Assisi church and school community.
“Faith is alive in all of you and that is why it is very important for me as your shepherd to be here with all of you to celebrate this wonderful milestone, this wonderful landmark,” Bishop Burns said.
Father Cruz A. Calderón, pastor of Santa Clara of Assisi, also praised the community, noting that “everyone’s effort” came together in achieving this goal that has been a desire for more than two decades.
“The work has not been that of only one person, but an entire community, parish and academy coming together,” Father Calderón said. “I am very grateful for the hours of tireless work and support of all these generous people. We are very blessed.”
Following the bishop’s blessing and ribbon cutting, Santa Clara students served as guides, giving parents and parishioners tours of the new facility while a mariachi band played and a reception was held.
Santa Clara of Assisi Catholic academy currently enrolls 196 students with 90 percent coming from Hispanic households. The new classrooms will house middle school students while kindergarten and elementary students will remain in the current school. All students will share the cafeteria. In addition, on weekends, the classrooms will be used for faith formation classes.