A decades-long goal may finally be coming to fruition as St. Joseph Church and School launched the Together We Build Our Future to Greater Heights Capital Campaign at the second annual Farewell to Summer Songwriters Night Saturday, Sept. 10, at the school in Madison.
The campaign “is a multi-phase project to help build and expand St. Joseph School and Parish facilities,” said Kristin Maher, development director for St. Joseph School. “Songwriters Night became the kick-off because it’s an event where the parish, the students and the families are already together. It felt like a good opportunity to talk about the project to a wider audience because it’s not just in the pews, and it’s not just in the school. We really want to start bridging the community together. It’s really a time of excitement and hope in the St. Joseph community.”
While the event served as a fundraiser for the school, event MC Matt Maher talked about the campaign at the start of the event, and Steier Group, a capital campaign fundraising firm out of Omaha, Nebraska, who is helping St. Joseph with the campaign, had a booth set up for parishioners and families to ask questions as well as handed out informational materials.
The campaign is separated into three phases. Phase 1, which has a goal to raise $4.6 million, will include the moving of the current playground to be closer to the school for the safety and security of the students and then create additional parking of up to 115 spaces where the current playground sits. Finally, it will include “getting the ground prepared” for Phase 2, Maher said.
Phase 2, which has a goal of $6.75 million, will go toward the building of a multi-purpose center and gym where the soccer field is now. Along with a regulation-sized gym, it will also include a stage for theatrical and musical performances, and full-fledged locker rooms, which will allow the Room In the Inn Ministry to offer additional amenities such as showers to its guests. It will also be an additional space for the parish to host various events.
“From my first days at St. Joseph this has been an ongoing need for the parish and school,” said Father Jean Baptiste Kyabuta, pastor of St. Joseph. “I asked the principal at the time if there was a feasibility study done. I was told, ‘Father, we just really need a gym. I began working on the feasibility study in 2020. It is all very exciting and a blessing. This is a historical moment for St. Joseph Parish and School.”
This Phase 2 project is one that the St. Joseph community has been working toward for decades. It all started with the 1997 Capital Campaign, Building Our Vision, and while it successfully expanded St. Joseph School, the final phase to remodel the gym was unable to be completed. The expansion for a new gym was then proposed a second time in 2008, but the campaign never got off the ground.
But in October 2020, the subject was addressed a third time, and, with permission granted by Bishop J. Mark Spalding, another feasibility study was begun in August 2021 with Bauer Askew and Associates, LLC, and a full report, conceptual design, and an environmental impact and engineering study was completed that November.
“This is something the school and parish have been working towards for decades now, it just didn’t come to fruition,” Maher said. “Perhaps now is the right time to finally finish the last phases of the 1997 Building Our Vision campaign.
“With the growth of Madison and East Nashville, it’s really important that our parish and school grow with our surrounding areas, so that we are better able to be a resource to the community,” she said.
The current gym is too small for a regulation-sized basketball court. Having a full-sized gym “is a great way to add to the richness of their experience at school as well as being able to host plays and performances,” Maher continued. “It will give our students the pride of being able to host and show-off their school to the rest of the diocese, which I think is important.”
St. Joseph is also planning to accommodate the current growth with Phase 3 of the campaign, which has a goal of $4.1 million. With the plans to have a new regulation-sized gym, the current gym will be converted into additional classroom space to accommodate the growing enrollment that came with the addition of 3-year-old and 2-year-old pre-kindergarten programs in 2019 and 2021, respectively.
“The more classrooms the better right now,” Maher said. “We need more space so that we can host the needs of our pre-K program and also continue to service the elementary and middle school students.”
Amy Lavender, principal of St. Joseph School, said the entire project will allow the community to use the entire property more wisely.
“It takes what we have, and it uses it in a way that makes the most sense,” Lavender said. “Being able to move the playground up closer to the school, adding more parking, creating a multi-purpose facility that isn’t just for the school but for the parish ministries to expand and grow, I think is so important and it’s so needed.
“We have been here almost 70 years and we have so many ties to Nashville all across the city. You run into people all over town and it’s common for them to talk about their ties to St. Joseph, so we’re just really excited that this campaign will help us finish the vision, bring our facilities current and help our programs continue to grow,” she said. “We are thankful to the diocese for allowing us to do this combined campaign, and we’re thankful for their support and their belief in this campaign.”
Dr. Rebecca Hammel, superintendent of schools, said she is excited for the St. Joseph community.
“The plans for St. Joseph will rejuvenate the campus and make the facility more conducive to the programming the school seeks to provide its students,” Hammel said. “The design greatly improves safety for the children and provides new spaces for middle school students, which is often a challenge in buildings constructed in the 50’s and 60’s. I am thrilled with the forward-thinking of the administrators for envisioning such spaces and grateful for Mrs. Lavender and Fr. Jean Baptiste for leading this renewal of St. Joseph’s campus.”
Church parishioners, families of St. Joseph students and alumni will be asked to fill out pledge cards to support the campaign in the coming weeks.