Ground blessed, broken for new school VIEW GALLERY (use keyboard arrow keys to navigate)
By Fabvienen Taylor
MADISON — After weeks of preparation by supporters for the groundbreaking of St. Anthony School, John Brunini teased his wife, Angela, the new elementary school’s principal, by telling her not to be upset if a lot of people didn’t show up for the ceremony.
“I told him I would be fine and that I just wanted us to get started and that it would be for the kids,” said Brunini. “I had never been to one and I guess I had low expectations for the turnout, but people just kept on coming and coming. It was a tremendous turnout and I am very excited.”
Brunini counted over 30 families and their children among the other guests for the 4 p.m. blessing and groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 24, on land adjacent to St. Joseph School located on Mannsdale Road.
The entrance to the new 47,000 square-foot school, designed by JH&H Architects and to be built by Malouf Construction, will be off Bozeman Road.
Costing $7.2 million, the pre-K4 to sixth grade elementary will open in fall 2009 with two classrooms for each grade and be able to accommodate 400 children. The school will also include a large multipurpose gymnasium, meditation room, library and administrative offices.
“Catholic education is central to everything we will do here,” said Brunini, who emphasized the new school’s strong academic and arts curriculum. “Religion class will not be just a 30-minute period every day but will be integrated into science, integrated into social studies, integrated into everything we teach. Children have to understand how their faith relates to their daily life both in order to be successful and to be a disciple of Christ.”
In his remarks Bishop Joseph Latino said,“Today is the beginning of the fulfillment of a dream with the new site blessed and you already have a principal.”
Msgr. Michael Flannery, St. Francis of Assisi pastor, said the new elementary school will, in a sense, complete the education program for the parish, located in south Madison County.
“We have the Assisi Early Learning Center for infants to pre-K4, then St. Anthony will be from pre-K4 to sixth grade and then St. Joseph from seventh through 12th grade. With St. Anthony adjacent to St. Joseph parishioners with children in grade school and high school will have a one-stop drop-off, which is very attractive to them,” he said.
The school was named for St. Anthony, a Franciscan and contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi. “Having the school named after St. Anthony makes the connection with St. Francis but at the same time makes it distinct from it and attractive to parishioners from Gluckstadt St. Joseph, Clinton Holy Savior, and Brandon St. Paul and Canton parishes,” Msgr. Flannery said.
Sister Deborah Hughes, superintendent of Catholic schools, is hopeful St. Anthony will be able to respond to the population growth in its area.
“Many demographic studies have shown many more people are going to be moving into that area so I’m glad we will have the opportunity to offer people there the chance to have a Catholic elementary school,” she said.
Recently she conducted the first of two training sessions for the new members of St. Anthony’s advisory council. “We are moving right along to bring them into the Catholic school system within the Diocese of Jackson,” Sister Hughes said.
St. Francis parishioner Anne Conger and husband David are “thrilled to have a Catholic elementary in our area,” she said. “I have done anything Father Mike has asked to get this school up and running — serving on the capital campaign, marketing committee, anything. I was given the gift of Catholic education by my parents, along with the priests, sisters and many good lay teachers. They made great sacrifices to see that I had that, so my husband and I decided we wanted the dedicate ourselves to providing that for our daughter, Katherine, who is six and will be a second grader at St. Anthony.”
Joining Katherine in second grade will be Alexander Brunini, 6, son of Angela and John Brunini, who also have a two-year-old son, William, at Assisi Early Learning Center and Anna Katherine, 11, who will attend St. Joseph next year.
Msgr. Flannery said the St. Anthony principal search committee unanimously chose Brunini, who most recently was assistant principal at Jackson St. Richard Elementary School. The next closest candidate considered was chosen principal of the year last year in Mobile.
“In addition to her education credentials and experience as assistant principal of St. Richard for a number of years, what tipped the scale in Angela’s favor was that she was local, she is a member of the parish and knows the people there,” he said.
Brunini earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Millsaps College, a Reading Specialty degree from Wake Forest University and a master’s in Educational Leadership Management and Policy from Seton Hall University.
St. Francis parishioner John Agostinelli, who like Conger served on various committees to make the new school a reality, said the need for the school would be obvious to anyone attending the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass. He and wife Becky have two children, Colin, 11, a St. Richard sixth-grader, and Kirsten, 7, who next year will attend St. Anthony.
“At Mass you will see two classrooms of children run up to father before the readings to head off to children’s church. There is a huge need for the school,” Agostinelli said.
He said approximately 25 percent of parish children attend Catholic school.
“Our thought process here was to give parents in south Madison County, like those at Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish the opportunity for their children to go to school in the same place they live, the same place they celebrate Mass and the same place they enjoy life in general. That was the basis behind this,” Agostinelli said.
“Estimates show there is going to be large population growth in this area in the next 20 years and this was the opportunity for St. Francis to be proactive and meet that need as well as for St. Joseph School to have another strong feeder school coupled with St. Richard School,” he said.
Brunini said parents can expect an academically excellent and challenging program for St. Anthony students.
“We believe every child learns differently, has a different learning style and we will teach them in the way they learn. We will have the highest expectations for their learning. We will have a strong emphasis not only in the arts and music, but a strong mathematics, science and technology curriculum to prepare our children for the future.”
In addition to the gymnasium with a stage for Masses and the meditation room, , Brunini said there will be prayer centers in the classrooms.
Brunini said many people are familiar with the image of St. Anthony (of Padua) holding and talking with the child Jesus from a story told by a monk (or count) who was passing St. Anthony’s hermit cell and saw a light coming from his door.
The monk looked in and seeing the vision fell to his knees and when the vision ended St. Anthony saw him at the door and begged him not to tell what he had seen until after his death.
“St. Anthony’s mission statement speaks to a strong Catholic environment, a strong Catholic tradition, Brunini said. “The last sentence says, ‘We invite all those who journey through our door to become disciples of Christ.’
“We want to capitalize on that image of looking for Jesus here, of that door opening up and people coming through, finding what they have been looking for. We want everyone to know that is our mission above all, and we are here to help you as you journey through our doors on your mission to find Jesus and to become one of disciples.”