St. Mary School breaks ground on new gym, parish center

Fr. Michael Cooney, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Mt. Clemens, speaks March 16 during a groundbreaking and blessing ceremony for St. Mary School’s new 12,500-square-foot gymnasium, which will be completed this fall. (Photos by Mike Stechschulte | The Michigan Catholic)
MT. CLEMENS — It wasn’t long ago that St. Mary School alumni experienced, as Fr. Michael Cooney put it, the “trauma” of tearing down their historic 1889 school building.

Brick by brick, the school, which was demolished last summer, represented decades of memories built by generations of students in central Macomb County.

On March 16, St. Mary School and St. Peter Parish broke ground on what promises to be a new beginning in the form of a 12,500-square-foot gymnasium and parish center that will feature a regulation-sized basketball court, stage, state-of-the-art sound and security systems, locker rooms, office space and a large gathering area.

“This doesn’t mean just a new beginning; it means the continuation of the tradition of excellence of Catholic education and the presence of the Church and all her ministries in this community,” said Fr. Cooney, pastor of St. Peter Parish, after the groundbreaking ceremony that was attended by community members, teachers and hundreds of St. Mary students wearing yellow hardhats.

St. Mary School students clad in hardhats attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the new school gym.

Auxiliary Bishop Robert Fisher, episcopal moderator for the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Northeast Region, was on hand to help bless the grounds, which is on the southwest side of the new St. Mary School, purchased five years ago from Mount Clemens Community Schools. Macomb County Executive Robert Hackel and Mt. Clemens Mayor Barbara Dempsey were also among those in attendance.

When completed this fall — an “aggressive timeline,” according to a news release from the parish — the new gym will serve as a hub for St. Peter’s K-8 Catholic Youth Organization athletics teams as well as a variety of parish and school activities.

“The gym here is too small for games, so we needed another facility,” Fr. Cooney said. “The stands will seat 350, and it will be used all year round.”

St. Mary School currently has 409 students enrolled in grades K-8, with more than 300 already signed up for next year. The school has experienced growth the past three years, Fr. Cooney said, which made the move to the current school building on Union Street — which has room for almost 500 students and property to expand — a necessity.

“These kids are our future, and one of our goals is not only to raise good, practicing people of faith, but also good citizens who participate in their communities so they can continue the traditions of life, love and faith that we all received from the schools we went to, and our families and parents,” Fr. Cooney said.