MANCHESTER – With the sign of the cross, a sprinkle of holy water and the snip of a ribbon, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair blessed and dedicated a new math, science and technology wing at East Catholic High School on Aug. 31, the first day of school.
Local politicians, educators, parents and students participated in the event, which included a reception for donors, performances by the school’s many music groups, speeches by dignitaries, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a tour of the new facility.
Attendees also celebrated the dedication of the Patty Gorra Meehan Fine Arts Center, which was fashioned from the former science area, as well as many other significant campus renovations that included the installation of new windows and doors, flooring, classroom furnishings and a patio outside the cafeteria as well as beautification of the grounds.
“The whole spirit here this evening and of this project is one of a great family,” Archbishop Blair said, noting that it’s a family that “goes a long way in the past.” He referred to outgoing Principal Jason Hartling as “a great catalyst and prime mover” in undertaking the building and renovations. The archbishop also thanked all the donors.
“You’re making an investment in our young people,” he said. “Yes, contributing to the common good and to making a better world but above all offering them a spiritual preparation, an invitation to commit themselves as spiritual people to faith in God and in service to others.”
According to Dominic Fulco, an alumnus and chairman of the capital campaign, the math, science and technology wing began with a vision and feasibility study in 2012, progressed to fund-raising efforts that totaled $5.2 million in pledges, and finally resulted in the new 13,000-square-foot addition. The new wing houses math classrooms, science labs and computer labs.
The former science area has also been transformed into a new fine arts center designed to accommodate the school’s seven instrumental groups, seven choral groups and its theater arts program. East Catholic’s Jazz East Combo I, string quartet and choral ensemble all performed for guests at the dedication.
The school educates nearly 700 students from more than 40 communities in the region.
Mr. Hartling, who developed the plan and oversaw the building and renovations, said, “What a great day for East Catholic! We do this through the generosity of our donors. And we do this with the hope and passion of our parents and families.”
He noted that the school is celebrating its 55th anniversary thanks to the generosity of the Catholic community and its commitment to Catholic education. “These renovations will prepare us for the years ahead,” he said. “We have the facilities now to move us forward for the next half a century.”
A tearful Mr. Hartling, who is leaving for a position as superintendent of the Ledyard school system, said, “I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the amazing team here at East who worked so hard to put this on,” and then asked the faculty and staff to stand up and accept recognition.
“While we read of closures of Catholic schools,” he said, “East is building and thriving thanks to all of you.”
Mr. Hartling added that an 8-by 9-foot custom stained-glass window that depicts Christ’s miracle at the wedding feast of Cana is on order and will be installed outside the school’s Notre Dame Chapel. “Why did we do that? Because ‘Do whatever he tells you’ is our school motto.”
Thomas Maynard, interim principal and chief administrator. commended Mr. Hartling for courageously envisioning change and planning for advancement. “He is relentless and, as I told him, the year that I spent with him is like 10 years with someone else,” Mr. Maynard said.
“It is time to utilize these strong resources and, while keeping our Catholic identity ever in the forefront, strengthen our focus on science, math, engineering, and the arts,” he said. A state-of-the-art athletic complex is also in the planning, he said, as is an endowment fund and expanded learning opportunities, such as the development of summer internships and international partnerships.
“East Catholic graduates are leaders and life-long achievers,” Mr. Maynard stressed. “The excellence ingrained in them through their high school experience of academic rigor, athletic excellence, immersion in the arts, community service and their core Catholic faith makes them strong contributors to our democratic society.”
Manchester Mayor Jay Moran presented both principals with a citation of congratulations from the Town of Manchester.
Both East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc and State Rep. Mark Tweedie, who also addressed the crowd, noted that they are alums of East Catholic.
Mayor Leclerc called her education “wonderful,” and said that the values she has carried with her throughout her life and to her job as mayor of East Hartford were “founded and grounded at East Catholic.”
She marveled at how God has brought her life full circle. “I can’t believe that I have the opportunity to walk the path that I’m walking and to be part of this celebration,” she said. “Sometimes things just make sense after the fact.”
Other dignitaries in attendance included Michael Griffin, new school superintendent for the Archdiocese of Hartford; Sister Mary Grace Walsh, the archdiocese’s provost for education, evangelization and catechesis; Theodore Horan, board chair of East Catholic High School; and Congressman John Larson.