St. Benedict's Classical Academy breaks ground on expanded facility

NATICK -- In 2013, St. Benedict's Classical Academy opened with just 25 students. Today, it boasts an enrollment of 250 students, and a faculty of 34. So perhaps it's no surprise that on May 19, the Catholic school broke ground for a new and updated facility at 89 Union Street in Natick.

There, to bless and contribute shovels to the symbolic first dig were both Bishop Robert Reed and Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, the latter of whom gave closing remarks and an encouraging closing prayer.

A large crowd of children, parents, faculty, board members and benefactors filled the outdoor tent and gathered in bunches, chatting in the high spring grass of the 13 acres of land soon to be St. Benedict Classical Academy's new home. But despite the peaceful scene of the assembly, the new facilities were hardly a foregone conclusion. Since acquiring the property, the school had to weather a pandemic, find an architect, and raise the funds to initiate building.

Although the new building and space were sorely needed, none of those funds had not been there when they began looking for an architect. When John DeMatteo, director of the All Things New Capital Campaign for SBCA, rose to make his remarks, he began pointedly -- but his point wasn't the money.

"My talk, you probably guessed, should be about business," he said. "But more importantly, I feel compelled to talk about prayer."

He went on to say that with God's grace and providence, and the generous help of families and some anonymous benefactors, St. Benedict's had finally raised enough of their 25 million-dollar goal to get started. As of this writing, the capital campaign's second phase continues.

"As we look towards Pentecost, we look towards the birth of the church. I firmly believe that this academy will be part of the rebirth of the Church," he continued.

The theme of renewal, as well as evangelization, surfaced in every remark made during the hour-long event, and architect Nicolas Charbonneau took it up when he spoke about his work on the classically designed facilities.

"A building is the first teach of the student," he said, "So it is essential that it is designed with care."

He emphasized that the realities of order, harmony, truth, and beauty be the "face that St. Benedict's turns to the world" making a "bold statement" about God's presence, one visible even to passing motorists.

Headmaster Jay Boren and Board Chair Dan Bachiochi also remarked that this expansion and growth were "a project of evangelization." The original building had, at one time, been a residence, and Boren made note that this was no accident, that a school as well as a church should feel like a home.

As the event neared its closing, and the ceremonial groundbreaking, Cardinal O'Malley rose to put a final point on the themes of the day: evangelization, rebirth, and learning.

"Knowledge is wonderful. But it is not enough," the cardinal said.

Mentioning an old photo of his Irish grandparents, kitted out in full goggles and huge coats to risk a ride in a brand new motorcar at "the life-threatening velocity of 15 miles per hour," he said, "The last century was successful in developing some of the most marvelous technologies, but it was also the most blood-steeped century in the history of humankind. We saw the motorcar, and the moon landing. We also saw Auschwitz and two world wars."

"It is only our faith that allows us to discover the meaning of the tools and knowledge we develop," he added.

"So, in this most propitious time, it is our -- your -- turn to pass on the faith, much as St. Benedict himself did in the early Middle Ages. Your lives, the way you live and teach and learn in this building, will be the light that shines as a witness to God's love," he concluded.

Following the groundbreaking, Hadley Keefe, director of enrollment for St. Benedict's, and mother of two, one a student in the Montessori Pre-K program, said that she had never had a community more steeped in love and radical hospitality than SBCA.

"It's such a joyful place. There's so much peace. And this new site is a miracle; this whole school is a miracle against insurmountable odds," she said.

Kellie Young, who teaches the Montessori program, also remarked, "St. Benedict's is a place where I feel I can teach in a way that embraces the development of our children reflected in God's wisdom."

Suzanne Smith, parent of two St. Benedict's students said, "I couldn't even have imagined that there was really a place like this, a place where education for my kids was rooted in prayer."

Currently, St. Benedict's plans to open for their 2024-25 school year at 89 Union Street, and continues to raise funds to complete the All Things New capital campaign, which will allow the school to construct not only the main building, but also an assembly hall and additional classrooms.