Hopes and dreams build another place of faith - Holy Cross Catholic School

Photos and Story by

Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

North Texas Catholic

 Holy Cross Catholic School - Architectural Rendering

Almost 2,000 years ago, St. Helena led a search for the holy cross and the tomb of Jesus in Golgotha.  Later, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built on the site, became a place of faith, learning, and prayer.

“The vision and dreams to put that structure in place, parallels what we are doing here today,” Fort Worth Bishop Kevin Vann told parishioners of Holy Cross Church during the September 15 dedication of the parish’s newly opened school in Frisco.  “Your vision, hopes, and dreams for Holy Cross School have built another place of faith where Christ may be known.”

Blessing of the first school to open in the diocese in 15 years came the day after the September 14 feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

“From now on the feast of the Holy Cross will not just be a day on the church’s liturgical calendar but a real day of faith and celebration for all of you,” the bishop said. “This school is a real example of keeping alive the faith and dreams of St. Helena to make the faith known.”

Housed in a renovated, two-story building near the growing communities of Frisco, The Colony, and Little Elm, Holy Cross Catholic School currently accepts Pre-K 3 through second grade students. Administrators plan to add an additional class level each year. The school’s eight classrooms can accommodate 150 pupils, according to Ann Beckel, director of curriculum, who is also in charge of marketing.

“Technology is one of our drawing points,” says the veteran educator who retired from her job as a Lewisville ISD principal last year. “We’re a 21st century learning campus.”

Every Holy Cross student receives an iPad to use in school and teachers are supplied with a Mac Air laptop. Classrooms are equipped with Promethean interactive whiteboards which allow a teacher to share information, graphs, and charts directly from a computer.

“Anything you can do on a computer, you can pull up on a whiteboard,” explained Elaine Nulting, the school’s Pre-K 3 instructor. “It’s more interactive and visually enticing for the students. The board lets them become involved in a project, so they can pick up things quickly.”

Librarian/Physical Education teacher Chris Davis said the curriculum taps into a youngster’s familiarity with technology.

“Kids can log onto their dads’ phones and know how to pull up games,” he continued. “We’re trying to take advantage of their ability and desire to do that and incorporate it into learning.”

Each iPad is downloaded with applications requested by the teacher.

“There’s even an app for browsing our book catalog,” the librarian added.

School Superintendent Don Miller called the opening of the 17th elementary school in the diocese, “a tribute to the pastoral leadership of Father (Michael) Holmberg and the commitment of his parish to make this happen.”

The diocese conducted a feasibility study three years ago and the findings indicated interest for a school in the area, he told the North Texas Catholic.

“Last November the bishop and Fr. Holmberg asked me to start this project and make it happen,” Miller added. “Due to the commitment of a lot of people, we were able to do this in a fairly short period of time.”

From start to finish, a building was purchased and remodeled within 10 months. Formerly a church warehouse, the structure includes 8 classrooms, a library/media center, art/music room and an all-purpose gathering space where the worship service was held. Eventually, Holy Cross School will move to its permanent location on a 34-acre plot of land in Frisco purchased for a new church. The parish is currently conducting a capital campaign for the construction project.

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During the dedication ceremony, Bishop Vann blessed crucifixes which were carried by teachers to their classrooms. He then sprinkled each room with holy water.

After the sacred rituals were completed, Principal Marie Pishko thanked the bishop and Catholic Schools Office for their support during the building process.

“And I want to thank the parents who had faith and enrolled their children in our school before we had a building, textbooks, or teachers,” continued the longtime Catholic educator. “They believed in what Catholic education has to offer. They are the people who are making this (school) happen.”

Tariro Sibanda’s daughter, Thandiwe, is one of the 27 youngsters attending the new school. Believing a private school would provide a strong academic foundation for their first grader, Sibanda and her husband looked into Holy Cross School after receiving a flyer in the mail.

“I was baptized a Catholic and I have cousins who went to Catholic school, so it wasn’t a foreign idea to me,” said the mother who remembers wearing a uniform to the all-girl high school she attended in Zimbabwe. “It was an easy transition for my family. I thought the school would give her a good structured, spiritual foundation.”

Sibanda is pleased with her decision. Class sizes are small, and she appreciates the school’s emphasis on technology.

“My daughter is really embracing a lot of the Catholic faith,” she added, pointing out another advantage. “Thandiwe comes home singing. I think that’s a great sign.” 

Blessing of the first school to open in the diocese in 15 years came the day after the September 14 feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.