Kelowna Catholic community to replace aging school

KELOWNA, B.C. – Students have been attending classes at St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School since 1939.

It was opened by the Sisters of Charity from Halifax and began with only three students.

While there are no longer nuns at the school on Sutherland Avenue between Ethel and Richter Streets, many of the buildings that house classrooms for more than 240 students are now too old to repair.

But unlike other schools in B.C., independent schools like St. Joe’s has to raise money from the community to repair and replace buildings.

“For capital projects and replacing buildings it’s long been a policy of the B.C. government that we must raise the funds ourselves,” says Hal Spelliscy, project chairperson.

The fundraising effort, The Masterpiece Campaign, launched a month ago with goal of $4.8 million and has already raised $2.7 million.

Parents like Spelliscy are helping out because they feel passionate about the future of the school.

“This is a great opportunity to keep a very rich, accessible, fascinating opportunity for the Kelowna community,”says Spelliscy. “It’s well located and welcoming to everyone.”

The fundraising campaign organizers have faith that the community also believes Catholic education is worth supporting.

“Faith is not only what happens between the ears, it’s something that’s worked out in practice,” says John Corriveau, Bishop of the Nelson Diocese which encompasses Kelowna.

Corriveau says families don’t choose Catholic education because it’s exclusive.

“Our population is not the elite of this world,” the Bishop says. “They’re common, ordinary working people.”

Families say they choose Catholic education because it teaches their children to be more inclusive.

“That they know there’s a bigger picture to life,” says Holly Routley, the campaign’s development coordinator and a parent. “I find the students have a stronger sense of community. They understand looking outside of themselves and forming themselves to be a better person so that they can give back.”

Construction on the new building is slated to begin at the Sutherland Avenue property in June 2016.

The next fundraising event takes place on International Giving Tuesday, Dec 1, at St. Charles Garnier Parish, with a performance by St. Charlie’s Angels, a chorus of women dressed as nuns.