COLUMBIA—A new era of Catholic education in the capital city began Jan. 19 when the just-completed Cardinal Newman School opened its doors.
The building’s halls rang with students’ voices and laughter as they hurried to pristine classrooms, science and computer labs.
“This almost doesn’t feel real,” said junior Katie LaPorte, 17, as she stood in the sunlit rotunda at the center. “It’s like a dream come true.”
Junior Cam Tringali, 17, also described the experience as “really surreal.”
“We’ve talked about this for such a long time and now it’s happening,” Tringali said. “I like it because we’ve gone from the old campus where we were all in different smaller buildings to this, where everyone is together in one building.”
The school’s 115,000-square foot main structure sits on 49 acres along Alpine Road in northeast Columbia.
The facility includes 32 classrooms, five science labs, a media center, music and vocal rooms with their own practice spaces, a performing arts center that seats 350, and a gymnasium. The cost of the project was about $25.6 million.
The school has been in the works for more than a decade. Cardinal Newman had been located along Forest Drive since 1961, but the student body’s academic and athletic needs eventually outgrew its property. Increased traffic, and residential and commercial development along the busy urban corridor hemmed in any possibility for growth.
Work on the Alpine Road site started in 2014. The facility was designed by JHS Architecture of Columbia, and construction was done by Contract Construction of Irmo.
Principal Jacqualine Kasprowski stood in the center of the rotunda to greet students on the first morning and couldn’t stop smiling.
“This is a blessed day that is a result of so much planning and work,” she said. “I like to say that God always takes care of Cardinal Newman, and this is the evidence.”
Catholic identity is reflected everywhere. The school itself is built in the shape of a cross and a shining gold cross sits atop the domed roof. As soon as people enter, their first sight is an ornate mosaic that frames the doors to Our Lady of Joyful Hope Chapel, located at the center of the building.
The chapel seats more than 200 and will be the site for school Mass, prayer services and other spiritual gatherings.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated a Mass of Dedication for the chapel on Jan. 23. He accepted a key to the chapel from the architects, anointed the altar with oil, incensed the altar, and inaugurated the tabernacle.
In his homily, Bishop Guglielmone said the chapel was the most important of many sacred spaces in the building because it symbolized the Christian message at the heart of everything that goes on at the school.
“This is the beginning of a new phase in the life of Cardinal Newman School,” he said. “This new school happened because many people worked together, and now all of the people gathered here must continue to work together with this tremendous mission. We all need to recognize our special gifts and be willing to share them to help the school’s ministry to go on.”
Tawfiq and Terry Hodaly dressed the altar during Mass, which involves placing the altar cloth and other items on it after it is anointed.
Mr. Hodaly said he was especially honored to take part in the ceremony because he built the altar, tabernacle and ambo for the chapel out of cherry wood. Mrs. Hodaly is the school development director. The couple’s three children graduated from the school.
“The ceremony was unbelievable — I had tears in my eyes,” he said. “It is wonderful just to see this happen for Cardinal Newman. I think this new site is going to help the school truly show what it is capable of. It’s going to raise our presence in the community.”
Larry and Mary Ann Flood, from Myrtle Beach, braved winter weather to drive up for the chapel’s dedication. The Floods lived in Columbia and saw all four of their children graduate during the late ’80s and early ’90s.
“Our children got a great education here and now it’s nice to see that the current students have an unbelievable new facility,” Mr. Flood said.
The Alpine Road property also includes a 1,000-seat football and soccer stadium, baseball and softball fields, and six tennis courts. A field house and weight room will open in the spring.
Photos by Christina Lee Knauss/Miscellany