PROVIDENCE — Christmas came early to the students, faculty and staff of Bishop McVinney School who received a most generous gift from Bishop Thomas J. Tobin on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The bishop presented the school with a grant award of $100,000 to help pay for much-needed improvements at the inner city pre-K – grade 8 school, which is owned and operated by the Diocese of Providence under its Catholic Schools Office. The award was made possible through proceeds from the sale of diocesan property.
After touring areas of the school that will benefit from the grant, chiefly the two classrooms slated to undergo a major renovation which will allow Bishop McVinney to expand its preschool offerings, the bishop proceeded to St. Michael the Archangel Church across the street where the student body was gathered for the presentation.
“I’m very happy and excited to visit Bishop McVinney School today,” Bishop Tobin told the gathering.
“It’s a chance to extend my greetings, prayers, blessings and my congratulations to all those who make Bishop McVinney School the very, very special place that it is. You’re one of the best schools in our state.”
After leading the group in prayer, the bishop, spoke of how the Advent wreath before them with two candles illuminated represented Jesus as the light of the world.
With each week’s lighting of a candle, not only the wreath becomes brighter, but also the world because we are drawn closer to Jesus, he said.
Noting that Jesus makes all the difference in the world, the bishop commended the school community
“On behalf of the whole Catholic Church in the Diocese of Providence throughout Rhode Island we have a very special gift for Bishop McVinney School today because we love you and admire you and appreciate the great work you are doing here,” Bishop Tobin said.
“You’ve earned our support and our praise and our appreciation for all that you are doing,” he said, inviting several representatives of the student body to come forward for the presentation of a large check to symbolize the grant.
Catholic Schools Superintendent Dan Ferris said that Bishop McVinney School can now move forward with plans that will allow the school to increase its pre-k enrollment from its current level of 53 to about 89.
The renovation of two classrooms would allow the school to accept 36 additional students.
“The funding will help take a classroom that’s being used for older children and convert it into a classroom that is DCYF approved, with bathrooms for younger children. The state has requirements in terms of the space, bathrooms and toilets for little children, egress and so on,” Ferris said.
Principal Lou Hebert expressed his deep appreciation to Bishop Tobin and the diocese for its continued support of Bishop McVinney School, which he said currently enrolls 204 students overall.
“I’m truly grateful and honored on behalf of the entire faculty and staff and students at the school that the diocese has given us a generous gift that we can use to work toward improving our school for the future,” Hebert said.
“We’re really looking to spruce things up.”
He noted that there has long been a need for affordable, high-quality early childhood education in the South Providence area where the school is located and that the grant would allow them to help address that need.
“Our program for 3-year-olds has always had a waiting list since we started it about 15 years ago,” Hebert said.
In addition to expanding Bishop McVinney’s pre-school, the grant will also be used to enhance security at the facility through the creation of an entrance foyer and the addition of a security camera in that area.
Also, the funds will be used to resurface the school’s playground with a safe material and replace a section of fencing.
Joan Ohnmacht, a Bishop McVinney School board member for the past nine years, said the continued diocesan support for the school will pay dividends far into the future in terms of guiding students on a path to success.
“This school is just wonderful. It’s been great to see how a Catholic education here has changed these students’ lives,” she said.
Robin M. Tagliaferri, the school’s director of Advancement, said the grant would allow the school building, which was completed in 1925 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with the adjacent church and nearby rectory and former convent, to maintain its character as it approaches the century mark.
“It’s an opportunity for some preservation in the neighborhood,” she said.
Bishop McVinney School was established in 1973 after urban redevelopment, which began in the 1970s, dispersed many families to the suburbs leading to a decline in enrollment at four parish schools: Assumption, St. Charles, St. Michael’s and the Cathedral of SS. Peter & Paul.
A study authorized by the bishop indicated that if Catholic Education were to survive in the South Providence area, it would require a regional school with support from the Diocese of Providence.
Bishop McVinney School continues to serve the Catholic educational needs of a diverse urban population with a proud and inspirational history.