By Mark Haney
The Catholic Weekly
SAGINAW — When everyone else is cutting funding for schools, the Diocese of Saginaw is spending.
During an afternoon press conference on Friday, May 6, at the Diocesan Center, Bishop Joseph R. Cistone announced plans to spend $4.1 million on Nouvel Catholic Central High School in Saginaw and All Saints Central High School in Bay City.
The money is part of a pool of $5.7 million raised since the beginning of the Legacy of Faith campaign begun in 2008 by then-Bishop Robert J. Carlson.
Nouvel, 2555 Wieneke Road, will spend $3 million on state-of-the-art learning spaces and laboratories, the renovation of existing classrooms and the removal of the school’s temporary annex building. All Saints, 217 S. Monroe St., will spend $1.1 million on building enhancements, including a new heating and ventilation system.
The work, the bishop said, is based on the intents of the donors.
“Catholic schools remain our strongest means of forming, developing, and educating our Catholic youth,” Bishop Cistone said. “The strength of our Catholic Church is dependent upon our ability to provide quality and affordable Catholic education in a Catholic school setting. I am committed to making certain that there will be a strong Catholic school program in our diocese for generations to come.
“This is a difficult time for Catholic schools and for all schools, but I am just a firm believer and filled with great optimism.”
Until now, the Legacy of Faith campaign had been targeted at particular individuals, but with the May 6 announcement it now is open to all donors. Pledges can be made through the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan. A link to that website will be available at www.saginaw.org. The plan is to raise the money for additional work at the two schools. Multi-phase improvement plans have been made for each. The Legacy of Faith campaign studied the needs of each school and came up with those plans.
“We are more directly responsible for them as a parent organization,” the bishop said. “While the parishes remain in charge of their schools, it is incumbent upon the diocese to help the high schools.”
But all the schools will benefit. The Office of Catholic Schools will continue to partner with parishes and schools to analyze and identify the infrastructure and educational needs of Catholic schools throughout the diocese. And the remaining $1.6 million raised by the campaign has been pledged for tuition assistance and school operations.
“This is more than just construction, more than just an investment in a building,” the bishop said. “We are investing in the community, in the Catholic community and in all of the community. …. We believe what we are doing is more of a gift to the general community as well as the Catholic community.
“It makes sense at this time to invest in our schools. Even though this is a very critical time economically — just look around and read the newspapers today; various schools in our area are planning cutbacks, restrictions and so on — you might have some questions about why we are making an investment. It is because we believe in it. We really believe in our schools, we believe in the importance of our faith, we believe in the contributions our Catholic schools make to the general community, we absolutely believe in this.”
Both projects are designed with environmentally friendly building practices and materials and are expected to be complete when students return to school in the fall.
New Superintendent Mary Ann Deschaine said the students at the two high schools will reap the initial benefits.
“I was talking to two of the Nouvel girls,” she said, “and they are excited about all of the possibilities. The All Saints students also will appreciate the work to be done. They may not see it but they will appreciate it and will not take it for granted.”
Because the diocese is freeing up some space in diocesan offices attached to the school to accommodate the needs of Nouvel, the work already has begun.
Wearing a special hardhat with bishop’s mitre on top that was made for him for the groundbreaking at Midland St. Brigid School’s expansion for grades 7-8, the bishop broke ground, as it were, for the Nouvel changes by punching a hole in a wall with a sledgehammer.
“I don’t know why I’m not just cutting a ribbon,” he said with a laugh. “Somebody said swing it like a golf club, but they’ve never seen me golf.”
He took two swings, to the cheers of the people gathered.
The additional phases at the two schools will progress as the funds come in.
There are 3,400 students enrolled in 22 Catholic schools across the 11-county diocese.