It's a busy time for the lakes area's Catholic churches.
Not only is construction underway north of Brainerd on what will eventually be a sprawling Catholic campus to include All Saints Catholic Church, but St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School is on the verge of a major overhaul.
The school was founded in 1909 and has been located across from St. Francis Catholic Church in north Brainerd since 1952, with few updates done since.
"(The building project) has been talked about for many, many years and now that it's coming to fruition it's very exciting," said Deb Euteneuer, St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School principal.
There are 245 students, preschool through eighth grade, enrolled this school year. Next year an increase of 53 students, kindergarten through eighth grade, is expected.
The Rev. Tony Wroblewski, pastor and school superintendent, said enrollment has been on the rise for several years.
Principal Deb Euteneuer and the Rev. Tony Wroblewski are excited about revamping St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School. Construction is expected to begin this summer on the $4 million project.
Brainerd Dispatch/Heidi Lake
"The church is responding to the lakes area's growth," he said. "It's no doubt the Brainerd area is a place where the Catholic faith is alive."
With nearby Whittier School closing after this school year, Euteneuer said St. Francis of the Lakes has received many calls from inquiring parents, but only a few students have enrolled as a result.
"A majority of our numbers come from existing families," Euteneuer said. "'We've retained 98 percent of the students from this to next year."
Class sizes average 16 students, with a maximum of 24 students per class. First grade has the largest enrollment this year with 28 students making up two classes.
Wroblewski attributes the school's growth to parents wanting their children to have a religious education, with prayer time, faith-filled teachers and much talk about Jesus Christ during the schoolday.
Two teachers, a full-time elementary and a .75 middle school teacher, will be added next year to accommodate the growing enrollment.
First-grade teacher Jennifer DesMarais read a book to her class at St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School. Enrollment is on the rise at the private school, with 298 students, preschool through eighth grade, expected next school year.
Brainerd Dispatch/Heidi Lake
The $4 million expansion/renovation project will give the 56-year-old school a major facelift. Four classrooms will be added and several will be expanded, the heating and cooling systems will be updated and an elevator will be added, making the building handicap accessible. Work will begin on the project this summer and is expected to be finished next year.
An anonymous donor gave the school $1 million for the project, and Wroblewski said a capital campaign asking church-goers to pledge contributions is in the planning stages.
"We're asking everyone to give a sacrificial gift. That'll mean different things to different people," Wroblewski said. "I feel confident the campaign will succeed."
Wroblewski is confident parishioners will step up and donate the $3 million needed to finish the school project. Another capital campaign is expected in order to raise money to build All Saints Catholic Church.
Until then, services are being held at Confidence Learning Center and are scheduled to meet in a temporary meeting place on the All Saints property starting Memorial Day weekend. All Saints will be located off Carlson Lake Road, which is west on Pine Beach Road.
HEIDI LAKE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5879.
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