Renovations improve student experience at BC High

DORCHESTER — A large image of a labyrinth on the floor surrounded by open space is common in medieval cathedrals, but it is not usually found in a high school. Yet, Boston College High School has added just that.

“We built it with the idea with it being almost like a sacred space,” president William J. Kemeza said about the central commons of the new wing, which features a labyrinth that is an exact copy of the well-known Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in France. It is the same size as the original and also oriented toward Jerusalem. Around the outer edge are the words “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” — “For the greater glory of God” — the motto of the Society of Jesus.

The students at BC High, an all male Catholic school in Dorchester, have tried walking the labyrinth, just as medieval travelers would before a pilgrimage, as part of a meditative, prayerful journey that was symbolic of life’s journey, Kemeza said.

“It really represents a Renaissance of the school itself,” he added. A balcony overlooks the labyrinth and has a view of the school’s new cafeteria, computer lab and classrooms. The facade of one of the five existing buildings has become an interior wall.

The opening ceremony on Feb. 28 began with a student ushering all to the central commons by piping an Irish song. A more formal ceremony with the blessing of the cornerstone will take place on April 14.

The school spent $22 million for renovations and the new wing, which connects all five buildings. The wing includes a science center, 18 classrooms, offices for teachers and counselors, a campus ministry area and shiny red lockers.

The update comes after years of delaying small repairs.

“We had been deferring maintenance on the school for a while,” said Kemeza who served as the school’s principal for many years.

The school administrators looked at the needs of students and built a new cafeteria with large windows that face Dorchester Bay. The previous cafeteria seated about 300 students and with an enrollment of about 1,300, four lunch periods were needed. The first started at 10:15 a.m. The new cafeteria seats 700 and will allow for two lunch periods, he said.

The school also expanded the already elaborate campus ministry program, Kemeza said. The program runs retreats on all levels and helps students fulfill their required community service — seniors have 150 hours alone. The office also places seniors in jobs at agencies, where they spend most of every day for six weeks of the school year.

“They come back and do reflection with us on a regular basis in small groups, reflecting on the connection with the gospel,” he said.

All of the classrooms are equipped with boxes that contain a DVD player, CD player and control the projector — all of which can be controlled by the teachers’ school-issued laptops. The whole school is wireless Internet accessible, which means teachers can take attendance and send it to the office, almost immediately, said Justin C. Holmes, director of communications for the school.

With all the changes, BC High is not expanding enrollment but has been dropping class size and giving teachers, who have four classes rather than the traditional five, more free time.

“This just eases things for us,” said Kemeza. “At least half the day, our teachers are available for one-on-one work with students, tutoring, etc., so that meant we needed a lot more space, a lot more rooms.”

In the past, the classroom had to be cleared, the board had to be washed, and students and faculty had to be evacuated for the next group to come in.

“Now a teacher can grab a student after class and say, ‘You know, I really liked that question,’” said Holmes.

Despite the changes, Kemeza said, he wants to keep the school like a “mini college campus.” When students have free time between classes, they are allowed to use facilities like the computer lab and library.

“The kids get to know how to use their time well,” he said.

The school has a “strong faith and commitment to forming leaders for the Church,” he added.

“We’re full of hope and faith about the future of the Church,” he continued. “This is such a strong sign for a Church institution to be building in the city.”

Students have been overwhelmed by the changes, Holmes said. They enjoy the fact that having all the existing buildings connected makes it easier to get to class, especially during the cold winter months when they previously needed to grab their jackets before heading outside to get to a different building.

Kemeza said the students are “awestruck” by the changes and already have plans for using the new space, especially the common ground area. In the first week the new wing opened, two groups of students had bake sales for charities. One was a doughnut sale for Rural Water Ventures, an organization that digs wells in Central America. It was started by a BC High alumnus, Bill McQueeney, who graduated in 1952, he said.

The addition has prompted faculty to find new ways to approach teaching as well. Both faculty and students have plans for receptions, gatherings and prayer services, he said.

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...