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Ground broken for West Fargo Catholic church, school

Bishop John Folda speaks during groundbreaking ceremonies in West Fargo, N.D., for Trinity Elementary School and the Holy Cross Catholic Church parish Thursday. David Samson / Forum News Service

WEST FARGO, N.D. — About 250 people crowded into the bus barn of Holy Cross Church on Thursday to celebrate the groundbreaking for a new Holy Cross site and Trinity Elementary School.

What was a dreary, drizzly, spring noon hour for most of the Fargo-Moorhead area was a lot brighter in the oversized-garage as the crowd sang hymns.

“It’s an amazing occasion, and we’re so happy we’ve come to this point,” said Bishop John Folda, the leader of the Fargo Catholic Diocese.

“There’s a lot of work yet to be done, but we’re moving. It’s exciting,” Folda told the crowd.

When events moved outdoors, the crowd was spared from rain during the ceremonial turning of the earth with shovels. They then applauded and cheered when Folda climbed into the cab of a Komatsu excavator to use its bucket to take a more emphatic bite out of the soil at 2820 Bluestem Drive.

The 76,000 square feet of the combined Holy Cross Church and Trinity Elementary will be built on 12 acres about a quarter-mile south of Costco and a couple of blocks west of Veterans Boulevard.

It is an area of West Fargo quickly filling with homes, condominiums, businesses and apartment complexes.

Folda told those assembled that Trinity will be the first new school in the Blessed John Paul II Catholic Schools Network in decades. He added that construction of a newer, larger Holy Cross Church will be “a new step in the life” of that congregation.

The project will be a blessing “for our entire faith community,” Folda said, calling the planning process a spiritual walk with Jesus Christ.

“Walking with Christ doesn’t end here; it begins here,” Folda said.

The school will have about 50,000 square feet of space and the church about 26,000 square feet, officials said.

Michael Smith, superintendent of the JPII network, said Trinity will have the capacity to hold 300 to 350 children ages 3 years through fifth grade. It’s planned to have two classrooms per grade for kindergarten through grade 5.

Smith and Folda said Trinity will make it easier for people living on the west side of the metro area and in neighboring towns to give their children a Catholic faith-based education.

“We have little doubt that in three or four years it will be full,” Smith said.

Smith said the overall fundraising goal for the project was $19.2 million, which also includes work at Shanley and Sullivan schools. He said $10.2 million has been raised so far.

The work at Shanley and Sullivan includes the creation of an activities wing to provide more space for band, choir, debate and speech, lockers, indoor bathrooms to serve the outdoor venues and an expanded commons.

Trinity is planned to be finished by July 2015. The church will be finished sometime after that, officials said.

The Rev. James Meyer at Holy Cross has said the new church will have a main sanctuary that can seat about 1,000, double the space available now.

The congregation of Holy Cross has almost tripled in size since the mid-1990s. The church now serves about 1,300 families, Meyer said.

In December, Holy Cross Church sold its building at 1420 16th St. E. in West Fargo to Lutheran Church of the Cross after the two churches shared a site for almost 30 years.

Holy Cross members will continue to attend at the current site until the new church is completed.

The JPII network now has four schools in Fargo: Holy Spirit and Nativity Elementary, which serve kindergarten through fifth-grades; Sullivan Middle School for grades six through eight, and Shanley High School, for grades 9-12. Sullivan and Shanley share a building on Fargo’s far south side.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.

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