By TAMI QUIGLEY
Members of the Berks Catholic High School (BCHS), Reading community gathered for a milestone event May 21, with the school celebrating the groundbreaking of the John R. Post Learning Center.
The three-story, 25,000-square-foot addition to the facility will include six additional classrooms, a learning commons and an expanded cafeteria space for students.
Msgr. Alfred Schlert, administrator of the Diocese of Allentown, presided at the afternoon ceremony along with officials of the diocesan Office of Catholic Education, board members, administrators, faculty, students, area clergy and the donors who made the expansion project possible.
Those attending included Tony Balistrere, BCHS principal; and Father Eugene Ritz, BCHS chaplain and organizer of the event.
The public was welcome to attend the ceremony, which was followed by a light reception in the school library.
“What we begin today, we begin in God’s name. Because if we don’t ask God’s blessing on this and the intercession of our Blessed Mother and all the saints, it will merely be a work of human hands, and it must be so much more than that because the mission of the Catholic school, any Catholic school, is to touch the minds and the hearts of young people so that they might become new and vigorous disciples for Christ and witnesses to him,” Msgr. Schlert said.
“Through the generosity of so many people we gather at this place,” said Balistrere.
“We do so first to give thanks to God and ask his blessing on this work that is before our school family. This project builds upon an already strong foundation of Catholic education here in Berks County and in the Diocese of Allentown.
“Beginning with St. John Newman and until this day our schools have participated in the saving mission of the church and have worked diligently to transmit the Gospel of Christ to every generation, imparting the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the academic knowledge
necessary for the life of virtue that calls us to be saints.”
Balistrere welcomed Msgr. Schlert; John Bakey, diocesan chancellor of Catholic education; and Dr. Philip Fromuth, diocesan superintendent of Catholic education.
He also welcomed Michael Elherman and Kathleen Herbein who chaired the “Excellence, Faith, Future Capital Campaign”; Gregory Shemanski, BCHS board chair; and board members; as well as all who served as solicitors and volunteers.
“We thank you all for your tireless dedication,” he said.
“We are grateful for the presence of the dedicated priests of Berks County, especially because our school is an extension of the parishes they serve and lead. I also welcome the religious sisters who are present, as Catholic education here in Berks County and throughout the United States could never have happened without you and the countless thousands of sisters who have served our community so diligently and to whom we owe so much.
“I would like to acknowledge the presence of Mr. and Mrs. John Post, who once again have blessed us with the gift that anchored ‘Excellence, Faith, Future Capital Campaign,’ as well as Mr. and Mrs. Terry McGlinn, who could not be with us today, whose gift will provide for the McGlinn commons on the main floor of the John R. Post Learning Center.”
He also thanked everyone who “provided those transformational gifts which today, allow us to begin producing the tangible result of an innovative learning center to include six new classrooms to meet the needs of our surging enrollment, a commons area and a collegiate-like cafeteria expansion and so much more.”
“I would also like to publicly thank Mr. Post for the two sculptures that enhance the west lawn of our campus. The cross, which represents our God pillar, and the paperclip, which represents our academic pillar,” he said.
“Thank you again, John and Maryanne for all you do. Today marks the beginning of a new space that will impact our students and faculty alike as our 21st century learning environment is enhanced, expanded and improved to allow us, as the 21st century disciples of Christ, to continue marching on, toward the Kingdom of God, as the Saints of Berks Catholic High.”
“Thank you for having the interest in this groundbreaking ceremonial event here today,” said Post. “I’m excited to support Berks Catholic High School’s plan of expansion. It reminds me that nothing is firmer than the ground on which we build. I suppose that where you choose to build is as important as what you choose to build.”
Founded in 2011 by the Diocese of Allentown to continue the mission of Catholic Education, BCHS has grown in enrollment by nearly 130 students. The school is centered on the four pillars of God, Family, Academics and Fun.