By: Dale King Contributing Writer
The sprawling St. Jude Catholic Church campus in Boca Raton, which includes a worship center, school, outdoor pavilion and an impressive parish hall added a few years ago, is approaching its 40th anniversary in 2019.
Whatever celebration is planned next year to memorialize four decades of service to God will be marked by the opening of a $4 million addition to St. Jude School, a Pre-K to 8th grade facility that opened in 1985, and has operated for 33 years without a gymnasium or stage performance area.
Those omissions should be remedied in Aug. 2019 when the doors of the major addition swing wide to welcome students, teachers and guests to the halls of faith-based Catholic education on the campus at 21689 Toledo Road in Boca’s western suburbs.
“I am happy to announce a new and exciting chapter in the ongoing story of St. Jude,” said the pastor, the Rev. John F. Horan. “We are in urgent need of a new pre-school building, administrative offices for the school and a gymnatorium where students of St. Jude School, and all youngsters of our parish, can gather and participate in athletic, cultural, religious and social activities.”
To cover the cost of this new facility, the church kicked off an “Illuminating Our Future” campaign earlier this year. Director of Development Jay Brandt recently accompanied reporters on a tour of the Catholic learning center as crews prepare to begin work that includes razing two existing, old buildings and creating a new outdoor athletic complex.
Brandt said the campaign is more than halfway to its goal, having already raised about $2.6 million.
“The ‘Illuminating Our Future’ campaign is a very exciting project,” said Brandt. “It includes construction of a new school entrance that leads to administrative offices. There will be four new pre-K-3 and pre-K-4 classrooms. The accommodations will be equipped with the latest in advanced educational technology. There will be areas for play, for rest and for study.”
“Beyond that will be a 6,000-square-foot gymnasium that doubles as an auditorium,” he added. “The indoor gym has a welcoming warmth with natural wood floors and the bright colors of the Saints all around.”
The school’s colors are blue and white.
“At the far end will be an elevated stage with lighting and a full sound system to allow the school and church to present artistic events.”
Principal Deborah Armstrong noted the importance of the gym/auditorium combination. “Since its inception in 1985, St. Jude School has provided a quality Catholic education. While we have been successful, there has been a missing piece to the puzzle – a gymnasium.”
Brandt said the gym will create an indoor area for recreational play, physical education classes and participation in sporting events. He noted the school has athletic teams, but all activities must now take place outside – often an inconvenience in torrid Florida.
“From the arts to sports to play time, this is what our campus has needed for many years,” he added.
The addition will be named for Frank and Vera Ferola. The Ferolas set up a charitable foundation that supports a number of organizations, particularly Catholic education facilities such as St. John Paul II High School (now Saint John Paul II Academy), St. Jude Church and school and Boca Raton Regional Hospital, among others.
Frank Ferola passed away in 2012. His widow continues to oversee the workings of the foundation.
Brandt noted that, “The Frank and Vera Ferola Education Center is long overdue, and will benefit our entire parish community. The addition fits in perfectly with the rest of the campus.”
The development director pointed out that some of the planning for the addition took place at the time of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Some pupil safety factors were already included in the plans. The addition, for example, will have one entry door and a single exit door accessing the lobby.
Principal Armstrong is particularly excited about the addition.
“The vibrant design is indicative of the life and joy that fills our campus on a daily basis. By moving the main office away from the center of the campus, we create a safer environment for all students in pre-K to eighth grade.”
She added, with no lack of enthusiasm: “Words cannot come close to capturing my joy for the future of St. Jude Catholic School” with the launch of its “Illuminating our Future” effort.