By Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald
While most of the exterior renovations fueled by multimillion-dollar capital campaign at St. Charles Catholic High School in LaPlace are visible and nearing completion this summer, one of the main projects – the school’s new stand-alone chapel – also is making progress in a way that’s more hidden when standing in front of the school on Dominican Drive.
A new, 126-seat, stand-alone chapel behind the school will enhance St. Charles Catholic’s tradition of having a Christ-centered environment and offer students a designated prayer space and a place for grade-level Masses, football team Masses, reconciliation services, living rosaries and eucharistic adoration.
The new chapel will be completed by December, said Dr. Courtney P. Millet, director of admissions, instruction and institutional advancement.
“This is a game-changer – that’s the best way I can describe it,” said Louis Authement, co-chairman of the “United in Faith” capital campaign who by 2023 will have all five of his sons graduate from St. Charles Catholic. “The school is going to look better than it ever has. We’re doing it in a way that will be timeless. It should look great decades from now.”
Authement said the Archdiocese of New Orleans allowed St. Charles Catholic to include the chapel in its construction campaign.
“That’s the one part that means the most to me,” Authement said. “We’ve never had a functional chapel that could accommodate a full grade level or the athletic teams. That is something we’ve sorely missed. Thanks to the generosity of the archbishop, we were allowed to build a chapel. Now the responsibility is on us to be good stewards and pay every single dollar back. This capita campaign isn’t just a campaign – it’s a culture.”
St. Charles Catholic already has raised more than $1.4 million, and Authement said “we have our sights on matching what’s been done before. This has been a tremendous opportunity for us to bridge the gap between St. Charles civil parish, St. James civil parish and St. John civil parish, where the school is located, and really promote the school. We are here to serve all three civil parishes, and that includes 14 Catholic churches, to let parents know that they can now regard St. Charles Catholic High School as their high school.”
The most visible changes are to the school’s exterior. The “blue tin school” is getting a complete exterior makeover with brick, stucco and energy-efficient windows. Two towers will mark entrances to the school, with one tower leading to the commons area dedicated to 1964 graduate Robert Hymel, a military hero and the only victim of the 9-11 terrorist attack at the Pentagon.
Interior renovations scheduled to be completed before classes start this month include installation of the fire sprinkler system, replacement of the fire alarm system and electrical switchgear, completion of the entry and commons additions, completion of the conference room addition and completion of two new state-of-the-art computer labs.
The computer labs will allow students to collaborate more easily with each other and their teachers for a full range of learning experiences. The curriculum offers a variety of technology courses, such as digital and media design classes and code design. Dual-enrollment classes are also available.
Additional interior enhancements include two new Promethean interactive walls that will be installed in the physics and biology labs. The widescreen interactive learning systems promote engagement and collaboration among teachers and students.
The interior renovations include a complete makeover of the school’s gym. The gym renovation will include new bleachers, new floor, new ceiling and new audio-visual equipment. The gym renovation will be completed by November.
“The trophy case for me is the gymnasium,” Authement said. “It was in such bad shape in every aspect, from top to bottom. Now it is a complete transformation – not just cosmetic. It’s a gym and an auditorium and it can accommodate multiple uses without much effort on our part.”
St. Charles Catholic principal Andrew Cupit said he appreciated the patience of students and parents during the construction. To learn more about the construction and renovations, questions or comments, please contact Millet at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 628-2641.
St. Charles Catholic will host an open house on Monday, Nov. 6, to unveil the newly renovated school to prospective students and parents. A blessing and dedication of the new chapel will be held on Jan. 30, 2018, at 9 a.m., followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening.
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.