The motto “let your light shine” is fundamental to proclaiming the Gospel at St. Jude Catholic Church and School in Boca Raton. Built on faith and dedicated to growing in charity and love, the parish and school are thriving despite the current challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Frank and Vera Ferola Education Center, a combination gymnasium and auditorium, was blessed Aug. 4, 2020 by Father John F. Horan, O. Carm., pastor. The project includes a 6,000 square foot gymnasium, four pre-kindergarten classrooms, a new school entrance that provides for stronger safety and security, a refurbished administration area and covered walkways.
This expansion of the school was part of the “Illuminating Our Future Campaign” that, according to Jay Brandt, director of development for St. Jude Parish, was a project 10 years in the making. “Donors from all areas of the parish and school have donated little by little to this campaign and it has been a true marvel to see how their love and dedication has added up to fund the project,” he said. “The school sorely needed this new structure to better serve our students.”
The new structure is dedicated to Frank and Vera Ferola, longtime parishioners and the generous donors of $1 million to the campaign. Vera has mentioned that this project has been a “labor of love” for her and all those involved.
"We have overcome many hurdles since we opened our doors in 1985 and today, through the generosity of so many, as well as the hard work and generosity of thousands of families whose children have passed through our doors, we are able to stand in this new building with tremendous gratitude," said Debbie Armstrong, principal.
A smaller, albeit equally vital undertaking has also been realized at St. Jude Parish: a Divine Mercy stained glass window in the prayer chapel of the church.
Brandt explained that this creative spark came from Father Horan last October. Forty years ago, existed a raised, built-in area for a daily mass chapel, which could accommodate about 30 people. “We have grown so much since then,” Father Horan added.
During a minor renovation, the structure was removed, uncovering a beautiful Spanish tile floor. What resulted is a natural space for personal prayer. An anonymous donor – wanting no credit – came forward with the backing of the Knights of Columbus to fund the installation of a Divine Mercy stained-glass window in this day chapel area. The donor’s vision was to provide a space for school children to pray and trust in the Divine Mercy of Jesus.
The parish reached out to Rich Buswell, senior designer at Lynchburg Stained Glass, to design and create the new windows. Buswell commented on the design: "We did a little creative play with the traditional image of the Divine Mercy—which is on a dark background—by placing a sunrise and ocean waves as the backdrop. Working in a pandemic environment had its challenges, but we were fortunate to do the work," he added.
The existing window is comprised of four vertical parts, so each panel of the image is overlaid onto the glass. “They designed a background that would be bright and work with our space. The fabricators drove down from Lynchburg, Virginia, and within two hours it was done! The next day it was blessed,” said Brandt.
“It’s a little bit of light in this present darkness,” he continued. “From start to finish, it took two months to complete at one of the most difficult times in the history of the parish.” It is now the centerpiece of the church, which people visit before and after Masses.
Rick Versace, outgoing Grand Knight of Council 13172 commented: “It is a crown jewel of our parish. We are very excited to be part of this special project. We hope all the surrounding parishes will visit.”
Adding to the room is a trio of paintings: Saint Faustina, the great apostle of Divine Mercy and first saint of the new millennium, Saint John Paul II who canonized her and Our Lady of Czestochowa, the eternal light of Divine Motherhood.
“How important it is that we recall the words Saint John Paul II spoke so often—do not be afraid!” Father Horan said. “Again, during these difficult times we need to say: Jesus, I trust in you.”
By Debra Magrann | Florida Catholic Correspondent