By Christine Galeone, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – In 1894, four Xaverian Brothers arrived at Worcester’s Union Station. Brothers Anthony, Calasanctius, Hugh and Robert stepped off of a steam locomotive and into the prestigious history of St. John’s High School. The brothers, who founded the Catholic all-boys high school that was located on Temple Street from 1898-1962, are the “founders” in Founders Hall, the school’s newest building. On Oct. 2, faculty, students, alumni and benefactors joined Bishop Robert McManus, the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester, and local clergy to celebrate the dedication of this new three-story, 48,000-square-foot facility that welcomes a new chapter in the school’s history.
In June of last year, the high school broke ground on the new building. With Kevin Chrobak from Juster Pope Frazier Architects as the building’s architect and alumni Mark, John and Jim Lauring from Lauring Construction Company as the general contractors, a vision took root. It was of a state-of-the-art facility to replace the outdated Flavian Hall.
Because of the growing interest in the performing arts, the building will feature a modern 350-seat performing arts center (still under construction), music practice spaces and a two-story band room. For student visual artists, the building offers more spacious art studios with better natural lighting. The new facility also provides more classrooms for the school’s Social Studies Department and allows the school to expand its world languages program, so future graduates can continue to thrive in a global society and economy. Finally, there’s a hall with an elegant display that honors classes from each decade since the school’s inception.
Nathaniel Newman, Class of 2016, who gave tours to event attendees, said it’s encouraging to see that the school “is serious not just about sports, but also about the arts.”
The dedication event included a Mass of the Holy Spirit, celebrated by Bishop McManus and several local clergy members (many of whom were alumni), a speech by Principal Dr. Jacob Conca – who praised Headmaster Michael Welch’s “unwavering faithfulness to this project” – campus tours, presentations, a video retrospective and a blessing of the cornerstone of Founders Hall by the bishop. There was also a luncheon for alumni who graduated before 1966, benefactors and St. Francis Xavier Society members. At the luncheon, the high school and the building dedication were both recognized with accolades from town and state officials.
One alumnus, who traveled from New Jersey with his wife and one of his daughters to be part of the celebration, graduated from St. John’s in 1943. Charles “Charlie” Daigneault used to walk 1.8 miles to attend the high school that he said gave him the training he needed to succeed in life. Referring to Founders Hall as “beautiful,” the World War II veteran said it’s hard to compare it to the Temple Street facility.
“The old school was old in those days. I’m speechless as to how to describe the difference,” said Daigneault. But, he added, “Even back then, St. John’s was the best school in the area.”