SYCAMORE – The Church of St. Mary started building more than a faith center Friday.
Church leaders expect the Faith Formation Center, which they celebrated with a groundbreaking ceremony, to help the Sycamore church spread Catholic culture in today’s secular society.
“Catholic schools are the architects of Catholic culture,” said Michael Kagan, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Rockford.
Dozens of parents, parishioners and St. Mary’s Catholic School students gathered near the school at 222 Waterman St. to commemorate the beginning of a three-phase expansion project. Friday marked the beginning of phase one, which is the construction of the $2.2 million Faith Formation Center.
The center will be a two-story building with space for classrooms and the religious education program. The first floor will include classrooms for preschool, kindergarten and first grade. Classrooms for junior high students are planned for the second floor.
The school’s principal, Ross Bubolz, said the space will accommodate the school’s growing junior high population. This year, the school had 38 seventh- and eighth-graders; next year, the school expects to have 50 students in those grades, Bubolz said.
Rosanne Dwyer, director of the religious education program for the school, said the program alone has served more than 4,000 students since 2002. Religious education serves not only students but also the community with Christian service projects, she said.
“This new, beautiful building will give us even more space to reach more people,” Dwyer said.
The next two phases will include a gym, a cafeteria and connect the school with the church. Bubolz said the projected cost of the expansion is $8 million.
Kim Coovert has two children who attend the school and sits on the education commission for the parish.
“When you believe in Catholic education,” Coovert said, “it’s all about building forward.”