Positioned to grow, St. Martin de Porres School celebrates dedication of new building

by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

North Texas Catholic

November 10, 2017


PROSPER — Visitors to the new St. Martin de Porres Catholic School in Prosper have no doubt as to the building’s ultimate purpose. Within view of the reception area is the school’s light-filled chapel and a stone alcove sheltering a large statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The 40,000-square-foot neo-Spanish structure boasts collaborative classroom furniture, an inviting, kid-friendly library and two separate academic wings, but it’s the school’s mission and ministry that set it apart from other places of learning, according to Gail Knobbe.

“Our Catholic identity inside the school and within our academics is very strong,” said the development director. “It was very important to us that people recognize and see that as soon as they walk through our doors.”

The newest elementary campus in the Diocese of Fort Worth was dedicated and blessed by Bishop Michael Olson Nov. 3. After a Mass in the school chapel concelebrated with St. Martin de Porres Pastor Father Richard Kirkham and Father Walter Dworak, the bishop blessed each classroom as the students watched.

Bishop Michael Olson blesses the school halls of St. Martin de Porres Catholic School in Prosper during a dedication ceremony Friday morning, Nov. 03, 2017. (NTC Photo/Ben Torres)  Check out our Photo Gallery


The first full day of classes at the new site was Nov. 6. Previously, the 156 youngsters attending St. Martin de Porres studied in a much smaller space in Frisco.

Currently, instruction is offered for pre-K3 through seventh grade with plans to add an eighth grade in 2018. The new school can accommodate 354 students.

Seventh-grader Katie Haeussler believes the appealing, spacious campus will help St. Martin de Porres evolve and grow. Her parents enrolled the youth in Catholic school after she experienced bullying.

“I came from another school and this just brightened up my whole life,” Haeussler said. “It was just a small school and it’s turning into a bigger and better community. I feel so blessed.”

Vincent Duckett was concerned about leaving the Catholic school he attended in Tennessee when his family moved to Texas. The 10-year-old found a similar, supportive faith community at St. Martin de Porres.

“I’m very excited about the new school. It’s nice, pretty, and as big as the one I left,” the fifth-grader explained.

Students hold their hands in prayer as Bishop Michael Olson conducts a dedication ceremony for St. Martin de Porres Catholic School in Prosper, Texas, Friday morning, Nov. 03, 2017. (NTC Photo/Ben Torres)

 

Set on a 52-acre plot of land in rapidly growing eastern Denton County, the school is part of a $17-million master plan that includes a church, parish hall with chapel, and gymnasium. A field, north of the school, allows for future school expansion.

Completion of the parish hall, which will house the school’s cafeteria, is expected next month.

“This is the biggest project we have completed in the diocese to date and it will get bigger from here,” said Jay deLeon, assistant property and construction manager for the diocese. “Opening the school is a huge milestone.”

Constructed with a steel frame and roof, the school building was made with modern materials and is set on a suspended slab.

“It’s a state-of-the-art system that is better for the lay of the land and is great for drainage,” he said. “It’s designed to decrease ground movement.”

Originally opened as Holy Cross Catholic School in September 2012 as part of Holy Cross Parish in The Colony, the school was deeded to St. Martin de Porres parish when it was formed in 2015. The change was made because the new parish’s location on the booming Highway 380 corridor provided the possibility of expansion and better accessibility to Catholics living in Prosper, Little Elm, and Frisco.

“How far we’ve come so fast by God’s grace. And we have more to go,” Bishop Olson said to the parents, parishioners, and benefactors seated in the school’s chapel.

During his homily, the bishop referenced the struggles of the parish’s patron saint who was denied an education because of race. The illegitimate son of a freed slave of African descent and a Spanish nobleman, St. Martin de Porres’ young life in Peru was marked by prejudice and poverty.

The bishop reminded his listeners the dignity of each person is written in the truth of God.

“One of the ways to treat people without dignity is to refuse to educate them, to educate them insufficiently, or to educate them in an impoverished way,” the bishop continued.

Deprived of an education and place in society, St. Martin found a home with the Dominicans and a vocation serving the Church. He was recognized for his wisdom despite having limited literacy.

On the feast day of St. Martin de Porres, Bishop Michael Olson dedicates his namesake school as pastor Father Richard Kirkham looks on. (NTC Photo/Ben Torres)


“St. Martin de Porres is an example for us and is a patron of social justice — social justice which is anchored in the truth of the Gospel,” Bishop Olson said.

Catholic education contributes to society by witnessing to the truth, the authenticity of the Gospel, and the dignity of each and every human person.

“So we might form a society that respects the common good and not see education simply as a commodity — a product for self-service,” he added. “That is the prophetic mission of this school Christ has entrusted us with.”

Welcoming the bishop to the dedication ceremony, Steve Knobbe, chairman of the building committee, thanked the prelate for his leadership.

“Your vision and four core actions brought us here today and are — what I like to call — the cornerstones of our foundation,” explained the St. Martin de Porres parishioner.

After establishing the parish and defining its 116-square-mile perimeter in January 2015, the diocese secured land for construction.

“You bought 52 acres of prime land before the home builders and developers,” Knobbe added. “You captured this beautiful spot — this key location.”

He also credited the bishop with providing the Church community with its most valuable resource, Fr. Kirkham, the pastor.

“We have taken this vision and, working with the diocese, developed a master plan for the parish and the school,” Knobbe said. “Now we stand in this building ready for its dedication. This building represents our ministry of Catholic education.”

Principal Nancy Kirkpatrick became emotional voicing her gratitude to the roomful of people who turned out for the dedication ceremony.

“I want to thank all of you who have supported us on this journey,” she said tearfully. “It’s had its high and lows but it’s worth it.”

Calling the new school a gift, she told the North Texas Catholic, “We’re looking forward to providing an education that will help children develop their mind and soul.”

Jennifer and Corey Dugas chose St. Martin de Porres School because they wanted a faith-based education for their children. The couple graduated from different Catholic schools in Louisiana. Their son, Jamison, is in kindergarten.

“He is beyond excited to be at this new school and have all this space,” Jennifer Dugas said. “We believe a Catholic education will teach him values and the right way to live. I know the Catholic high school I went to changed my life.”

PROSPER — Visitors to the new St. Martin de Porres Catholic School in Prosper have no doubt as to the building’s ultimate purpose. Within view of the reception area is the school’s light-filled chapel and a stone alcove sheltering a large statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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