Immaculate Conception Parish dedicates new educational campus

In these days of school consolidation, it is truly a joyous occasion to dedicate the opening of a new Catholic school — or as they are called these days — a Catholic education and activity center.

Hundreds of parishioners of Immaculate Conception, Columbia celebrated that joy as they attended Mass and the Rite of Dedication on Sunday, Sept. 8, marking the end of a journey that began three years ago with the launch of a capital campaign.

The new $11.8 million educational campus sits on a hill north of the city beside the new Immaculate Conception Church which was dedicated in 2013.

The parish has thus far received $8.5 million in memorials, donations and pledges, which is 72 percent of its goal.

The 53,000-square-foot educational campus is located on 37 acres and includes classrooms, an art room, computer lab, resource room for up to 540 students, faculty room, a gymnasium, cafeteria, kitchen, a performance stage, and space for pre-school  during Mass. 

Currently the school’s enrollment sits at 382 students and has gone up in recent years.

Since its founding in 1846, Immaculate Conception Parish has built three churches and three schools. The last school was constructed in 1921. The Main Street church property was recently sold to a developer and currently consists of a major development known as Main Street Abbey, which includes an event center, lofts, vendors and a microbrewery.

In his remarks, Principal Mike Kish thanked Pastor Carl Scherrer, whom he called “a power of one,” for his leadership in shepherding the construction of the new education and activity center.

“Father Carl stressed the importance of building church while building a church,” Kish said. Kish also thanked the countless volunteers and building and fundraising committee members, pastoral council members, as well as those who donated labor and funds.

Kish said the lesson he took away from this successful building project was that, “thoughts and prayers don’t count unless you act.”

In his homily, Bishop Edward K. Braxton, presider and homilist, commended the parishioners on the generosity in their time, talent and treasure required to “achieve this worthy goal.

“Generations to come will thank you,” said the Bishop. “You have responded to the mandate from Jesus Christ, to ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ Never forget this mandate!”

The bishop reminded parishioners that Catholic schools do not exist solely so that we can know more about math and science and art. Catholic schools exist to form true disciples of Jesus Christ. “Always remember,” Bishop Braxton said, “this is not a private school, this is not a harbor from the problems of public schools, but a true wisdom community that seeks to inform, transform and form in the name of Jesus Christ.”

The bishop concluded that the shape of the church to come is in their hands.