Our network

My Town: St. Mary’s Church parishioners pledge $1.87M for new education center | Arts & Culture

Title (Max 100 Characters)

My Town: St. Mary’s Church parishioners pledge $1.87M for new education center
My Town: St. Mary’s Church parishioners pledge $1.87M for new education center

SPRING LAKE, Mich.―During a special “Announcement Weekend” mass held recently at St. Mary’s Church in Spring Lake, Fr. Dan DePew made public for the first time the news that St. Mary’s church parishioners pledged $1,876,280 over the past month toward construction of a new St. Mary’s Catholic Education Center.

The proposed Center is expected to be built at 421 East Exchange Street in Spring Lake within the next three to four years. Plans call for it to replace the existing St. Mary’s School, which is currently located at the site. The 15,000 square foot school was built in 1954 and has been deemed to be beyond its life expectancy. It currently serves 212 students from 1,250 families who live in Coopersville, Ferrysburg, Grand Haven, Fruitport and Spring Lake. The nearby St. Mary’s Church, which sits adjacent to the school, houses a preschool and after-school extension program, as well as faith formation and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults programs.

The new St. Mary’s Catholic Education Center will cost around $5 million to build. It will provide 22,000 square feet of space to accommodate more than 500 students, including those in young 5’s, preschool, kindergarten through eighth grade, faith formation education, RCIA and other faith-based ministries. Facilities equipped with state-of-the-art technology will be a hallmark of the new center.

A project overview to build the new St. Mary’s Catholic Education Center was outlined to St. Mary’s parishioners through a series of information meetings held in December 2013. Named the “Mary, Seat of Wisdom” capital stewardship campaign, Fr. DePew and a campaign cabinet of church members followed up with a prayer period in January, a commitment weekend in February, then an announcement weekend on March 8 and 9 at all masses.

“During the commitment weekend, we invited the entire parish family to meet for fellowship and to confidentially register their financial intentions towards this important campaign. Since then, we have been collecting pledges and registering donations and we are just overwhelmed with joy at how generous people have been with the total amount pledged to date. Pledges are expected to be paid off over the next three years,” said Fr. DePew.

In making the announcement, Fr. DePew said, “This is shaping up to be a blessed year for the entire St. Mary’s community and for the Tri Cities. With our initial pledges received to date, our commitment towards constructing a new, updated education facility that will help children in the region grow spiritually and academically is on the road to becoming a reality.”

With the $1.87 million pledged so far, the funding plan established by Fr. DePew and St. Mary’s Church officials can now move forward with plans toward building the project and keeping it on schedule.

“The Diocese of Grand Rapids requires that 50 percent of the total project cost be cash in hand, along with establishment of a viable funding plan before permission will be granted for us to move into the construction phase. We will now seek additional community-based funding,” said Fr. DePew.

St. Mary’s role providing spiritual training, academic education and leadership is echoed in the thoughts of Biomedical Engineer Rita Michlitsch, who has attended since the school’s founding in 1954.

 “I was part of the first kindergarten class at St. Mary’s. I spent my formative years learning the skills necessary to succeed in high school, college and eventually in industry, from training my brain by memorizing poems in Mrs. Parsons’ class to having a masterful grasp on the English language because of Sister Marie Jude’s insistence on having perfect grammar. St. Mary’s prepared me to make the jump from an eighth grade class of 14 to a graduating high school class of nearly 500, to a college with 20,000 students," says Michlitsch. "Even though I was a small fish in a big pond at each of my steps, my education that I received from St Mary’s helped put me on a path where I knew I could succeed and shine regardless of how many other students were also trying. I am one of four Michlitsch children who went through St. Mary’s and three of the four of us went to Purdue University to pursue a degree in engineering. I majored in mechanical engineering and graduated in four years. I could have pursued a career in any number of fields, but my Catholic faith and the lessons I learned from the faculty and education at St. Mary’s helped guide me to a career that has a focus on helping others. I graduated from college in 2006 and have since worked in the medical technology industry, making products from diabetes test strips to spinal implants. The foundation that St. Mary’s gave me helped guide my career and I would be honored if I could help guide the future of other St. Mary’s students.”

St. Mary’s Catholic Education Center is being planned to help lay the foundation for students to receive not only solid theological but moral teachings.

“So far, we have had 469 families respond with pledges and they have taken a leap of faith with their generosity. We will never realize what this education center will mean to the community, nation and world. Parents tell me their children grow up to become active in the communities where they live as well as in their church families. That is why this center is bigger than ourselves,” said Fr. DePew.

Upon completion, the new St. Mary’s Catholic Education Center will weave the school, faith formation and school ministries together into one main campus. St. Mary’s officials believe this will enhance overall parish life.

“I go to our religious education classes and am amazed at what our catechists and our Catholic teachers do in the classrooms each day. The teachers and students are in love with their faith and this uplifts the whole idea of the building not only being brick and mortar,  but a place to enhance the faith lives of generations to come,” said Fr. DePew.

For further information about St. Mary’s Catholic Education Center, contact Fr. Dan DePew at (616) 842-1702.