As he stood before the crowd gathered for the groundbreaking at the site of what will be Bishop David Zubik spoke of his own catholic school days.
It was the first day of his junior year and Sister Malcolm, a new teacher with the school, furiously wrote on a tablet, ignoring the boisterous students who greeted each other after a summer apart.
When the classroom finally quieted, Sister Malcolm looked up from her desk. She told the students they were not children when they entered her room. Her goal was to turn them into adult men and woman—and ones who knew Jesus.
That goal remains the same today at North Catholic High School.
“What Sister Malcolm shared with us on that first day of school in 1965 is so very true for what we are about today,” Zubik said.
Saturday’s groundbreaking for the school in Cranberry marked the culmination of eight years of planning, rallying alumni for support and raising funds while struggling to keep North Catholic afloat, said Frank Orga, North Catholic's president.
“This couldn’t be a better day,” he said of the groundbreaking.
Design and construction consultants, the Pittsburgh diocese, clergy, school alumni and North Catholic’s board of directors also participated in the groundbreaking.
Named for Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who served as bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese for 18 years, the will be located along Route 228 on 71 acres near Cranberry’s border with Seven Fields.
Able to accommodate up to 1,000 students when opened, the high school is the largest building project the Diocese of Pittsburgh has undertaken in recent history. After exploring the idea for a number of years, the diocese ultimately decided to close the school’s building in Pittsburgh's Troy Hill, where it has been located for more than 70 years, and move programs to Cranberry in response to population growth and shifts in the North Hills.
The school is set to open in time for the 2014-15 school year.
Efforts to raise money for the new building, which has a projected cost of about $71 million, are ongoing.
Although he declined to give a specific figure, Orga said interest in enrollment in North Catholic continues to be strong
“When we open the doors, it’s going to be magnificent,” he said.
Also taking part in the ceremony was 14-year-old Lillia Smyers of Ross Township. Lillia, who just celebrated her eighth-grade graduation from St. Sebastian in the North Hills, will attend North Catholic in the fall and be among the first students to graduate from the new school once it opens.
“I’m very excited,” she said.
After prayers and readings from the Bible, Zubik blessed the site with holy water. He then donned a hardhat and joined Orga, former Superior Court Judge Maureen Lally-Green, who is now director of the Office for Church Relations at the diocese, contractors, architects and others to break ground on the site.
Final approval for the school’s building is still underway. Cranberry’s board of supervisors is expected to vote June 28 on final approval for plans for the high school.
Michael Arnold, chief facilities officer for the Pittsburgh diocese, has said the board’s decision would affect when construction begins on the project.
A formal dedication ceremony for the new school also is scheduled to take place in early 2014, according to the diocese.