By Laura Dodson
August 13, 2023, marked a milestone – stepping from the commitment and perseverance of the parishioners of St. Paul’s first church and school in Riverside throughout 100 years into the next 100.
“I invite all the students, teachers and staff to come forward for a blessing,” Father Leonard Chuwa, pastor said at the conclusion of the 9 am Mass. “We lift up these students ready to commit to excellence in the next school year, may the backpacks they carry filled with their school supplies serve as a reminder of the love and care of St. Paul’s parishioners. May the teachers and staff be committed in their service and the parents and parishioners support the children in every way. Now, let us all go to bless the school!”
The community processed to the doors of the original church and school. St. Augustine Bishop Patrick Barry had blessed the foundation, cornerstone and place where the altar would stand on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1923. By September 16 that year, the three-story, 6,000 square-foot building was completed; Father William Barry, pastor celebrated the first Mass in the sanctuary on the first floor; and a week later, the Sisters of St. Joseph opened the school to 120 students.
Sister Elise Kennedy, SSJ, an alumnus whose grandparents and parents were parishioners cut the ribbon at the doors as confetti burst forth, shouts of joy erupted and Father Chuwa invited everyone “to cross the threshold into the future in the spirit and courage and zeal of St. Paul.”
At the green cross embedded in the floor where the altar once stood, Kim Repper, principal, led the community in St. Paul’s Centenary Prayer and Father Chuwa blessed the place and people with holy water.
It was a truly poignant blessing. On Oct. 11, 2022, a pipe from the school water tower burst cascading 10,000 gallons of water throughout the building. The destruction required more than $1 million in renovations; the accommodations needed to continue classes for the year were monumental; but now, all is new.
Led by Jason and Anne Spencer, parishioners since 2013, and their children Jude, 7 (first grade); Aeden 6 (kindergarten); Noah, 4 and Felicity 1 – the community stepped into the future.