Enrollment increases and rejuvenated dorm facilities at St. Lawrence High School Seminary are putting a positive light on the campus in spite of a March 8 fire that destroyed the two oldest buildings on the campus in Mount Calvary.
Students and staff at the 155-year-old seminary, including 59 freshmen, recently dedicated a remodeled and expanded St. Anthony Hall dormitory. The hall, named in honor of a Portuguese priest of the early 13th century, will serve as housing for freshmen and sophomores.
Completion of the dormitory project comes as school officials make plans to rebuild St. Joseph Hall and the school’s chapel, both built in 1873 and destroyed in the fire that struck one of the few remaining high school seminaries in the country.
“We are in the process of working with our architects in planning to rebuild the buildings lost in the fire,” said Francisco Sauceda, director of admissions and recruitment at St. Lawrence. “We are not jumping into the rebuilding quickly. We want to make sure we meet the needs of the community and of the seminary.”
The somberness of dealing with the fire loss has been tempered with anticipation and eagerness as the 2014-2015 school year is at hand, Sauceda said.
Campus enrollment increased 15 percent, from 178 students at the end of the previous year to 204 as of Aug. 16, he said.
“The Class of 2018 (59 freshmen) is one of the larger freshmen classes in the past few years,” said Sauceda, noting the seminary has had enrollments of more than 300 students.
“In terms of awareness, we are doing a nice job of exploring options for students attending St. Lawrence Seminary. A lot of parents are referring families to us and we’ve been around for a while and have a good reputation internationally,” Sauceda said. “Our reputation is for offering a great Catholic education and the church has promoted us as a great Catholic institution.”
He said students come from all corners of the United States and several foreign countries, including South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.
The excitement of returning to school after summer break is heightened this year with the opening of the newly renovated St. Anthony Hall and, in a separate project, St. Mary’s Hall Refectory, the campus cafeteria, Sauceda said.
“In our cafeteria we’ve done things like expand our salad bar and worked to give the guys more varieties of food to choose from,” he said.
But the opening of what is being dubbed the “modern St. Anthony Hall” is generating the most excitement, Sauceda said.
First completed in 1960, St. Anthony Hall has housed freshmen and sophomores the past 54 years.
The renovation project, which includes a 1,000-square-foot addition to each of St. Anthony’s three floors, was prompted by a need to conform to current building codes and offer students improvements in living facilities.
In 2013, the building was closed for what was to become the largest construction project at St. Lawrence in 30 years. The eight-month-long project left just the outside brick and steel structure of the building remaining.
The renovation included new windows, a complete electrical and plumbing upgrade, suites for resident supervisors and elevator and, in the lower level, room for students to watch television or play basketball on half-court facilities.
Seminary rector and president, Capuchin Fr. John Holly, blessed the new facilities in a ceremony on Friday, Aug.22.
“This significant investment speaks to us, and we believe to interested families, of our belief in the future of our school and our commitment to that future,” Fr. Holly said. “St. Anthony Hall served students here for over 60 years. It was in need of repair.
Our efforts over the past eight months and our future plans for more extensive renovations in St. Mary Hall speak volumes to us of our continuing to provide a unique high school experience for our students.”