St. Paul School in Olathe celebrates its golden anniversary
by Jill Ragar Esfeld
OLATHE — Though small in stature, with about 200 students enrolled in grades pre-K to 8, St. Paul School here is large in spirit just the same. And its faculty, parents and students just proved it again on April 19, when more than 300 of them joined Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and pastor Father John Torrez in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the school.
The event began Sunday evening with a Mass celebrated by the archbishop; a family dinner followed in the parish activity center, with the table settings crafted by the children themselves.
“‘Growing a Garden of God’s Goodness’ and ‘Fifty Years of Growing and Learning’ are themes we’ve been working on,” explained principal Stephanie Hill. “So the kids made different kinds of flowers for the table settings.”
Those themes have echoed through this school many times over the past few months, as its close-knit community has been commemorating the 50th anniversary all year long. The students built a float for Olathe’s Old Settlers Day parade last September, for example, festooned with banners that read “Fifty Years of Growing and Learning,” and sporting the handprints of every child in the school. The banners now decorate the school’s hall and gymnasium.
Students also received pennants during Catholic Schools Week that read “Fifty Years of Growing and Learning: 1959 to 2009.”
“It never ceases to amaze me,” said Hill, “how many people I run into — whether they’re in the archdiocese or in the Olathe community — that have connections to St. Paul, either former teachers or former students or family members.”
Father John Torrez, pastor of St. Paul Parish, agreed.
“There have been many who have had the honor and blessing of receiving their Catholic education at St. Paul,” he said.
“I am always wonderfully surprised to hear from visitors how St. Paul School played a role in their development of faith as well as their children,” he added. “Although some have moved on, they will never forget what they have learned from their teachers, community, and past pastors.”
More than 300 people accepted the invitation to the Sunday night event. Many were former students or parishioners who have supported the school.
Former parish pastors were also invited. The event was a community effort, said Hill. All the parish organizations got in on the planning and production, including the PTO, the Knights of Columbus, the school advisory council, and the parish community.
“We’re fortunate to have the support we have and we look forward to celebrating these 50 years and certainly growing from here,” she said.
Father Torrez said the celebration has given the school and community an opportunity to honor all those who have contributed to St. Paul’s success.
“These types of celebrations give us a moment to reflect in gratitude for all those who have come before us — who sacrificed so much for future generations to succeed,” he said. “My hope is that we will continue to honor their memory by providing our children the best education and environment, so that they will grow to embrace their faith with fervor and confidence.”