St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioners assemble for groundbreaking for a new Activities Center

Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

North Texas Catholic

May 15, 2013

Fr. Dennis Smith, Msgr. E. James Hart, and Fr. James McGhee shovel dirt for the groundbreaking

From left to right, Fr. Dennis Smith, Msgr. E. James Hart, and Fr. James McGhee turn over the first shovel of dirt during the April 21 grounbreaking ceremony of the new SEAS Activities Center. (Photo by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen/NTC)

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Fifth-graders Kate Chiapetta and Mary Allison are looking forward to cheerleading and joining the volleyball team at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School (SEAS). And by the time they’re in seventh grade, the girls will be honing those skills inside a new gym.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller is adding an Activities Center to its growing complex. Flanked by parochial vicars Fathers Dennis Smith and James McGhee, pastor Monsignor E. James Hart officially started the project by turning over the first shovel of dirt during an April 21 groundbreaking ceremony that followed the 11 a.m. Mass.

Addressing parishioners assembled on the north side of the school building, the pastor thanked his flock for their presence, support, and generosity.

“Because of your love for this parish we’re able to do what we’re doing today,” Msgr. Hart said.

The two-level multi-use building will serve as a hall/cafeteria and gymnasium and will house school functions as well as large and small parish gatherings. A fully equipped pantry and kitchen suitable for in-house catering, an audio/visual system for special events and productions, school lockers, and administrative offices are also planned for the 27,370-square-foot space.

“This is truly a dream come true,” said school Principal Kay Burrell.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School opened its doors for the first time in 2000, and the first question posed by parents to Burrell was, “when will we get to play in our own court space?” she told the audience gathered for the groundbreaking.

School administrators hoped to have an on-site gym by the time the first SEAS eighth grade class graduated.

“When that didn’t happen, I just hoped it would happen before I retired,” adds the long-time principal. “So this is a very exciting day for all of us.”

She thanked Msgr. Hart for his visionary leadership and the associate pastors, parishioners, Knights of Columbus, and Diocese of Fort Worth for their support.

For the past 13 years, the school has rented gym space so youngsters involved in sports programs could practice. Games were held at other Catholic schools.

“Students had to travel to other places,” Burrell told the North Texas Catholic. “Having our own gym will save money, and our parents won’t be inconvenienced. It’ll be nice to have basketball games on our own campus.”

Physical education classes currently convene outdoors in good weather but move inside to converted classrooms when it rains or is too cold.

“It’s been rough” admits the principal who hopes to use that space in the future to expand the school’s Learning Lab.

Construction is set to begin later this year and should be complete by November 2014. The exterior of the Activities Center will match the stone facade of other parish buildings.

The project will accommodate school needs and provide an added bonus for parishioners. A walking track installed in the new gym will be available to church members in the evening and on weekends. One of the largest Catholic schools in the diocese, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton has 619 students enrolled.

“We’re such a large parish. I’m grateful that when Msgr. Hart came here, he had the vision to go ahead with the project,” Burrell said. “It’s a building that will benefit everyone.”

Pat McGrail, mayor of Keller and a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, congratulated the church on its latest construction goal.

“This parish has continued to grow along with our city,” he said during the groundbreaking. “It’s a tremendous asset to Keller.”

Fifth-graders Kate Chiapetta and Mary Allison are looking forward to cheerleading and joining the volleyball team at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School (SEAS). And by the time they’re in seventh grade, the girls will be honing those skills inside a new gym.

Published (until 12/12/2031)
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