Gianna Molla Beretta Early Childhood Education and Development Center Breaks Ground

Cathedral of St. Joseph’s new Gianna Molla Beretta Early Childhood Education and Development Center broke ground Sunday, September 8; the building was donated by Mosaic Life Care. From Left: Dr. Mark Laney, CEO Mosaic Life Care, Greg Seifert, architect, Chris Herner, contractor, Fr. Stephen Hansen, pastor of Cathedral of St. Joseph, Bishop Johnston, Martha Kauffman, Jocelyn Winter, Director of the Early Childhood Center, Sofia Roetto, Early Childhood Center student, Joshua Francis, Cathedral student, and Mary Herner. (Sara Kraft photo)

By Sara Kraft

ST. JOSEPH, Mo.—Four days before the 150th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone and groundbreaking of Cathedral of St. Joseph church, the parish community with Bishop Johnston celebrated another milestone on September 8: the groundbreaking for a new early childhood center.

Bishop Johnston explained that early childhood centers are important to the mission of the Church.

“Children at an early age are eager learners and early childhood centers help us build a good foundation as learners,” explained Johnston. “It’s also important for the education of children in the Faith. They are like little sponges eager to receive the goodness of Jesus and learn about God and His plan.”

For the past thirty years, Cathedral of St. Joseph Early Childhood Center has cared for the children of St. Joseph ages 6 weeks to pre-kindergarten; it also offers after-school care for Cathedral students through age 14. Currently the center is in the old convent building on the Cathedral campus, but the building is no longer grandfathered into fire code and would require substantial changes. By addressing these safety issues with a new building, Cathedral of St. Joseph Early Childhood Center can better serve the community by being able to once again become state licensed and accept state pay.

The Center began exploring a change of location in August 2018, soon after Fr. Stephen Hansen arrived as Pastor of Cathedral of St. Joseph. When Mosaic Life Care offered to donate their 15-year vacant building just a block west of the current campus, Cathedral had to move quickly to meet the guidelines for the gift. In just 20 days, 1.4 million dollars were pledged toward the estimated 1.8 million-dollar project!

With much local interest, a large benefactor helping fund renovations, Bishop Johnston’s approval and over 400 work hours cleaning out the inside of the building of wire, sheet rock and metal by Knights of Columbus Councils 5067 and 571, the construction project will become a reality.

The new Saint Gianna Molla Beretta Early Childhood Education and Development Center hopes to open in February as a state-of-the-art facility. It will serve up to 120 children, and include a playground specifically built for young children and an atrium for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which presents the most essential teachings of the Catholic Faith to children as young as 3.

The center’s namesake, St. Gianna Molla Beretta, was an Italian pediatrician who understood the realities of being a wife, working professional and mother. While pregnant with her fourth child, Gianna was diagnosed with a uterine tumor. Despite the risk to her own life, St. Gianna decided to save her baby. She died in 1962 from complications related to the tumor, seven days after her child Gianna Emanuela was born. Gianna was canonized in 2004.

“A five-foot statue of St. Gianna Molla Beretta will overlook the children as they learn about the goodness of God in the atrium,” explained Fr. Hansen. It will also include an Infant of Prague statue, to show the children Jesus was once small like them.

Construction on the new center is part of phase one of a three phase complete campus healing and restoration project. Projected plans include the renovation and construction of the Early Childhood Center, new roofs for the gymnasium and current early childhood center building (which will be repurposed for other uses), installing church roof ice-breakers to prevent damage and injuries from falling ice, two new air conditioners and will pay off existing heating and cooling system debt.

For more information or to donate to the project, visit


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October 20, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph