By Sharon Burns
CALEXICO — Almost four years to the day of the initial groundbreaking, Cardinal Robert W. McElroy blessed Vincent Memorial Catholic High School, site of a major renovation at the valley’s only Catholic high school.
Faculty and staff, students and parents turned out for the May 31 ceremony, which began with a Mass in the school gym. A procession followed in which the cardinal sprinkled holy water outside a new science building and inside its hallways and in the interior of a new chapel.
The occasion marked a significant milestone in the school’s 74-year history.
The renovation aimed to revitalize the school’s infrastructure and provide students with modern facilities. The project included the new building, which houses a science lab, and seven classrooms and the chapel; the remodeling of existing classrooms; new sidewalks; a new staff parking area; new exterior paint; and an attractive new front gate.
Gone are the old trailers that had been used for classrooms for decades.
“We lost track of (the cost), but it’s over $6 million,” said Sister Lupita Hernández, SJS, the school’s principal. An initial projection had pegged renovation at nearly $4 million.
“We did receive a donation from the diocese of $500,000, and a donation from a foundation that wishes to remain anonymous.”
The school and its supporters tirelessly raised funds for nearly a decade to make the renovation a reality.
She said student enrollment increased from 245 to 350 since the renovation was completed by the fall of 2021, when students were able to resume in-person learning as the pandemic eased.
Rodrigo Valdivia, the diocese’s vice moderator of the Curia, also was on hand. He had worked with the finance and administrative offices to oversee the renovation and fundraising.
“The whole objective was to provide a better learning environment in a place where (students) could feel happy and proud,” Valdivia said, adding, “It was a great thing for the Church to do for the students of Calexico and Mexicali.”
The cardinal addressed the students during the Mass, saying the upgrades will help their education and build character.
“It’s a great joy to be here today,” he said.
He highlighted three points. The first one was about expectations and how they will constantly change.
“Don’t think only of yourself,” he said in his second point, underscoring the Gospel message that Mary’s “yes” to God was a form of self-sacrifice.
His final point was about having the grace to understand God’s will.
“God loves you, no matter what you do,” the cardinal emphasized, “even if you walk away.”
Then Bishop McElroy was present May 28, 2019, at the groundbreaking for the new building.
At the time, he said that Vincent Memorial “unites a wonderful heritage of faith and academic excellence that brings together the bonds of Imperial County and Mexico in a common faith and humanity which unites us all.”