On Aug. 10 – groundbreaking day — Fr. Tom Eichenberger, pastor of St. Francis Borgia Parish, Cedarburg, donned a hard hat, climbed aboard an earth mover and ceremoniously started the process of constructing an education and activity center exceeding 60,000 square feet.St. Francis Borgia youth perform during an Aug. 10 groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the education and activity center to be built in the Town of Cedarburg. (Submitted photo courtesy St. Francis Borgia Parish, Cedarburg)

Next year, the center, in the Town of Cedarburg, will replace the parish’s 63-year-old grade school building at N43 W6005 Hamilton Road in the City of Cedarburg’s historic district. Parish sources believe theirs will be the first entirely new school building, as distinct from additions to existing schools, in the archdiocese in more than 10 years. The center will house St. Francis Borgia’s Christian Formation youth program and adult ministries, in addition to its 3K-8 elementary school.

“We certainly value education both for the day school and the Christian Formation program,” Jack Steinbrecker, chairperson of the St. Francis Borgia pastoral council, told the Catholic Herald in a telephone interview.

The center will boast 26 classrooms, a gymnasium and facilities for preschoolers and extended care program participants. It will have a capacity of 500 students. The current school serves 327 pupils in a parish numbering 2,000 families and 5,800 individuals, according to information provided by the parish. 

The Hamilton Road building, which will be sold, is next door to the older and smaller of the congregation’s two churches, known as St. Francis Borgia South; the church will continue to be used for weekday Masses, weddings and funerals.

The center is being constructed on land contiguous with what once was Divine Word Church and is now called St. Francis Borgia North. The former Divine Word Parish merged with St. Francis Borgia approximately a decade ago and the latter name was maintained. The church buildings are about four miles apart.An architectural rendering shows the future St. Francis Borgia education and activity center which will feature 26 classrooms, a gymnasium and facilities for preschoolers and extended care program participants. It will have a capacity of 500 students, while the current school serves 327. (Submitted image courtesy St. Francis Borgia Parish, Cedarburg)

“Merged parishes often find that their infrastructures are very inadequate to meet the needs of a new megaparish,” Fr. Eichenberger, whose associate pastor is Fr. Justin Lopina, told the Catholic Herald via email. “We need more room not only to grow, but even to exist.”

He added, “At St. Francis Borgia Parish we often have to turn down an event or a funeral or a meeting or a ministry or even a Mass because all our spaces are in use. We have outgrown our buildings and we need new digs. For us it is not a ‘want,” it is a ‘need.’”

Peg Edquist of the Building Leadership Team of parishioners pointed out during a phone interview that “a united campus” will be one of the great benefits of the new structure. Edquist noted that with “a very thriving school, a very active school, you want to have a state-of-the-art facility.” The Hamilton Road school, she said, has “multiple problems, as an old building does,” including “no usable gym” – a circumstance that forced its pupils to use the gym at the local public high school. Also, the existing school “is landlocked.”

Supplanting the aging school “was a thought for a number of years,” said Steinbrecker. “It was a long process to get to this point.” 

After the “thought” crystallized in conjunction with parish leaders’ strategic planning, the process progressed through the seeking and granting of civic consent and archdiocesan approval to build, and the raising of $10 million to do so through three capital campaigns.

The earliest campaign enabled the parish to purchase 30 acres of land (at first rented out to farmers) for the center and eventual development of outdoor sports facilities. 

Along the way, the parish weathered the possibility of a highway bisecting the property and waited out the unfavorable economic climate that prevailed late in the previous decade. The people of St. Francis Borgia have “worked hard for about 10 years to achieve the dream of added space for our daily ministries, especially for our school and Christian Formation children,” wrote Fr. Eichenberger. “I am proud to be pastor of a parish so generous, faith-filled and far-sighted. Our new building will be a tribute to their faith.”

During his 12-year pastorate, Fr. Eichenberger, in Edquist’s words, “has been a great steward, a great leader.”

In addition to Edquist, the Building Leadership Team includes her husband, Jerry, as well as Andy Lampereur, Jim Michaletz and Gerry Schwarz. Cedarburg’s Groth Design Group has served as project architect while C.D. Smith of Fond du Lac is the construction firm.

A dedication ceremony for the center is expected to take place next August.