St. John's Academy project complete

SJA Chapel
St. Joseph's Chapel at St. John's Academy features historic stained glass windows from the chapel once used years ago. Kathy Steiner / The Sun

An estimated $6 million addition to St. John’s Academy is complete, except for a few small “tweaks,” said Monsignor Jeffrey Wald, pastor of St. James Basilica.

The community supported the project, Wald said, and an open house on Sunday, Oct. 18, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. will give anyone who would like to view the addition a chance to do just that.

“We’d like an opportunity to open the doors and let people of all faiths and all people of goodwill to come and see what makes us so proud here at the academy with the new addition and the work and the mission of the school here,” Wald said.

The addition is the result of work that began six years ago, he said. The project, which broke ground in May 2019, added more than 17,000 square feet of space, said Jeff Trumbauer, principal.

“It approximately doubled the size of the building,” Trumbauer said.


Students and staff have been using the new addition since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year but some chapel work was still in progress. That was recently mostly completed, and Bishop John Folda of the Diocese of Fargo was at the academy last week for a full day of events including blessing the addition, blessing and consecrating the new chapel and new altar and attending a small dinner.

St. James Basilica owns and operates the 130-year-old Catholic elementary school, which has an enrollment of 230 students in preschool through sixth grade, Trumbauer said.

“It’s one of the oldest continuing operating Catholic schools in the state of North Dakota,” Wald said.

The school addition was funded by donors. Roers Construction was the construction manager and MBA Architects was the architectural firm for the project. In addition to the chapel, the project included a commons area, administration area with offices and a teachers lounge, 10 classrooms and a child care area, which was completed in November.

“The chapel is really the centerpiece of the whole project,” Trumbauer said.

School changes

The administrative area is now located on the south side of the building near the entrance.

“The building’s more secure than it was,” Trumbauer said. “Our administration area previously was in the middle of the building in the middle of the block and now there are two clear entry points on the north and south end of the building, and people have to enter through the administration area before they move onto other places in the building.”

Before the new commons and kitchen area were completed, students ate in the basement of the school where the cafeteria and kitchen were located. The commons area is next to the kitchen which features new, more efficient equipment.


Smartboards for all classrooms, more iPads and a new sound system for the new classrooms were purchased, Trumbauer said.

“Those (technology purchases) have been tremendous additions and really have given our teachers the ability to modernize their planning and delivery of instructions,” he said.

The Faith Formation program is also held at the academy, which consists of evening religion classes for students in elementary public schools and middle and high schools. The facility is in use almost year-round, Trumbauer said.

St. Joseph’s Chapel

St. Joseph’s Chapel is named in honor of the sisters first at the convent and school, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet based out of St. Paul/Minneapolis, Wald said. The chapel is located next to the commons off the main concourse connecting the north and south entry points. Before the chapel was constructed, prayer stations, which remain in use in the classrooms, were used at the academy.

“Christ and his life has been the center always of what we do and what we say and what we strive to carry out here at the academy,” Wald said. The chapel gives the students a place where they can “make a visit with the real presence of our lord and have a place to come and pray as a class and a community …”

On Friday, Wald asked a few students what they liked about the project and students immediately said the chapel.

Emelia Cramer, a sixth-grader, said she liked going to the chapel instead of just going into the gym.

“We have a lot more room, more statues,” said Ava Conway, another sixth-grader, of the project.


The chapel also features historic stained glass windows that were once located in the chapel in the convent where the sisters lived and were stored at a parishioner’s farm. Deacon Tom Geffre revamped those old stained glass windows and also designed and created two new ones, Wald said.

Wald said there were many people to credit for the project including administration, teachers, alumni, donors, parishioners and the bishop.

“It just means that a lot of people have worked hard through the years because of their commitment and love for Catholic schools and the mission of Catholic schools that have made this possible, really,” Wald said. “We have a lot to be thankful for. A lot of people have walked these halls and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their inspiration and dedication to what this school stands for.”

Wald noted that the community was important to the project as well.

“... we have a great deal of support from all the people in this community, no matter what faith background,” he said. “We have a lot of children here of other faith commitments and those parents also have been investing themselves and wanting to support the building project and certainly sending their kids here, so we’re thankful. And a lot of people just love the idea that a Christian education is available here and through St John’s Academy and wanted to be supported …”

Trumbauer said Wald's contributions were key to the project occurring.

“I don’t think this project would have gotten off the ground if it wasn’t for Monsignor Wald and his passion for Catholic education, both at the academy and in our Faith Formation program,” Trumbauer said. “Someone has to lead and there’s no question that monsignor was the leader of this project and behind it from day one to the day of completion. But it also wouldn't have happened without the contribution of many, many people and it’s touching to see the support for the academy ... and the value of what takes place here.”



If you go

What: St. John’s Academy open house

When: Sunday, Oct. 18, 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Note: Enter through the south side entrance

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