By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
ST. JOSEPH — The word “legacy” conjures images and memories of bygone days and people. The Cathedral School class of 2015 views legacy as something for the future: future students, future teachers, future conversations and ideas.
You see, the class’s legacy is an outdoor classroom and brick wall of honor on the school’s campus.
The students visited the EmPower U Plant in downtown St. Joseph at the end of their seventh grade year and the legacy project was born. A division of Heartland Foundation, EmPower U Plant works with youth to inspire them to take big strides into the future, yet recall and honor their past and the values instilled by parents, teachers and others of influence.
As a group, the then-seventh graders decided to leave a special mark on Cathedral School, something they would be remembered for, for many school years to come. They brainstormed and discussed numerous ideas and fantasies. The session was longer than anticipated, “because we really wanted to have something incredulous (sic) made in our names,” said Claudia Kammerer, a student member of the Legacy Project committee.
Once the idea of an outdoor classroom was suggested, it carried the day. The students began with a rough sketch of the area — a rectangular concrete space overlooking the gardens between the school and the day care center — and the many suggestions for “different things” to place there. The gardens were well kept, making it a simple proposition of cleaning them up and removing a small pond and benches from the premises. They then moved to the open concrete area that was to be the outdoor classroom. Adding a teacher’s podium, tables and benches for students to sit on the right side of the rectangle facing the school, and different tables on the left side for recreational activities and Sunday gatherings, the students came up with more ideas. An awning or pergola was suggested for weather-related reasons, and extras including trash cans, recycling bins and flower pots.
A number of students had wanted to install a Cathedral Wall of Honor, listing the names of those who had made a difference for Cathedral School students in the century since its founding. The class decided to incorporate the outdoor classroom and the gardens with the Wall of Honor, installing 100 engraved paver bricks with the names of 100 people.
As their plans grew in scope, the class researched many aspects of the Legacy project and realized they needed expert help. They had already enlisted the aid of Father Matt Rotert, pastor, Mary Burgess, principal, teachers Lisa Lilly, Maggie Sego and Mary Ann Didde, parents and other volunteers. They now enlisted the advice and help of the parish business manager, the parish outreach minister and volunteer garden coordinator, a parishioner and brick mason, a local monument dealer, a professional landscaper, an engineer and a sales rep for an outdoor furniture company. The cogent advice and information the students received made them realize what they were undertaking and what it would cost.
Claudia and Katie Welter wrote a grant to the W. Fairleigh Enright Charitable Trust, addressed to Gerald R. Sprong, Trustee, at the Community Foundation of Northwest Missouri, asking for help in paying for their Legacy Project. The grant application included all the facts and figures, as well as the plan Claudia had drawn of the outdoor classroom, gardens and Wall of Honor. The class applied for a $23,000 grant, and was delighted when the Enright Charitable Trust awarded them the grant.
Months of preparation, clean up, assembling and finishing touches ensued.
Monday morning May 1, the day of the annual Alumni Appreciation and Memorial Celebration, was warm and sunny. Following the 8 a.m., all-school Mass, the eighth graders were inducted into the Cathedral Alumni Association. Names of alumni of the past 10 decades were read by Mary Burgess, and medals were given to each eighth grader by a seventh grader, symbolizing membership in the alumni association. Alumni present at the Mass were recognized.
Then students, teachers, parents and grandparents gathered outside for the dedication of the Legacy Project of the Class of 2015. The St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce sent representatives for the formal ribbon cutting, which was done by Mary Burgess and Lisa Lilly. After the dedication, Claudia and Katie shared the experiences of the last year.
Why did they decide on an outdoor classroom and gardens? Katie said a trailer used for a classroom was being moved which left the concrete space for something outside. An outdoor classroom would be a place for students to enjoy the seasons and learn while enjoying the warmth of the sun. Claudia added that “Katie and I are kind of nerds; we like to do our homework during recess, so…”
The girls said the classroom space was to be used by all Cathedral students. The gardens are growing tomatoes and herbs which will benefit the Cathedral Food Pantry. The seventh grade will have charge of watering and weeding the plants, Claudia said.
“We thought it would never happen,” Katie said. Claudia added, “We were sitting in Math class watching them assemble the tables and benches and that’s when we knew for sure it would happen. “
The Cathedral Class of 1980 and Bishop LeBlond Class of 1984 gifted the Legacy Project with a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in memory of deceased members of those classes. The statue sits under a tree in the gardens.
The girls pointed out several names of the First Hundred on the Wall of Honor, including Bishop Charles Buddy, Bishop Maurice Burke, Bishop John Hogan, Bishop Charles LeBlond, Msgr. Leo Ruggle, Msgr. Richard Dierkes, Msgr. Charles Nowland, Fr. Thomas J. D. Hawkins, Fr. Thomas Scanlon, Fr. Gerald Waris, Madames of the Most Sacred Heart, Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict, parishioners, teachers and other members of the St. Joseph community who in one way or another made a difference in the lives of Cathedral School children over the years. The Wall of Honor will add another 100 names on engraved bricks as they are ordered and paid for.
For now, Claudia looks forward to attending St. Joseph Central High School and Katie to attending Bishop LeBlond. But no matter where they attend high school, the class of 2015 can rest assured that “something incredible” was made in their names — the outdoor classroom, gardens and Cathedral Wall of Honor is a legacy that will endure far into the future.