By David Lias
Bishop Paul Swain of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls urged local residents Wednesday, Sept. 11, to remember the sacrifices that local citizens made in the past for the community’s young people.
“A number of you have mentioned to me that you went to school here,” Bishop Swain said, speaking to an audience from a stage located on the playground of St. Agnes School. “You remember the impact, when you look back, to say, ‘this is a great school, this is a great place that has changed my life.’ One way that we recognize those who sacrificed for us is to sacrifice for those who need our help right now, and especially in the school, for our kids.”
Wednesday’s event, held under a large tent erected on the school grounds, featured music from St. Agnes students and singer Dawn Kinsman, and speakers, including Bishop Swain, Father John Fischer, pastor of St. Agnes Church, and Tim Tracy, the parish’s deacon.
The gathering was held to formally kickoff the Campaign for St. Agnes.
The goal of the campaign is to raise $3 million to make much needed improvements in facilities and programs of the parish.
Four specific areas have been identified: St. Agnes School, Calvary and Fairview cemeteries, the parish house and adult education. A priority of the campaign is the school, which is over 50 years old.
Bishop Swain said an important component of the campaign is the way it helps build the community and strengthen the parish through acts of prayer, caring, stewardship and unity.
“You are a model for so many,” he said. “You are going to be a stronger parish by doing what you’re doing now.”
The parish is planning a building project to add four new classrooms, an office area and a common workroom for teachers, newer public restrooms and a more centralized entrance for the school.
In addition to the new construction, renovation of the existing building is also planned.
Efforts to raise funds have been underway for some time now, limited mainly to private discussions within the local parish itself. Those efforts have been ongoing at the same time the needs of the parish have been reviewed, and the planning process for accomplishing needed improvements has begun.
“Obviously we have to take care of facilities, and we have to take care of the kids and the ways they learn these days,” Bishop Swain said, speaking of needed improvements to St. Agnes School. “Obviously, Catholic schools are not in competition with public schools; they compliment each other … what an important ingredient they bring to the public schools.”
Catholic schools also provide important assistance to parents, he said.
“Parents are the first teachers of the faith, and that’s not always easy,” the bishop said. “Catholic schools raise up and offers opportunities to support parents as they seek to share the faith with their families.
“What you are doing with this school is teaching the standard by which these kids, as they grow up, choose right from wrong, moral from immoral, life over death,” he said. “The good news of Catholic education is children are taught the standards by which they can make good choices.”
Catholic education, Bishop Swain said, is about “living the teachings of Christ, and letting his light shine through us … I look forward to coming back and seeing all of the great changes that you are going to do in the next several years.”