Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Cardinal O’Malley watch a performance by the Cathedral High cheerleaders. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
SOUTH END — The Cathedral High School boys basketball team won the state championship this year without playing a single game at home.
The school, situated just across Union Park Street from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, did not have an indoor athletic facility. The basketball team, like others at the school, practiced at area community centers and played all their “home” games away. Fortunately, that will change next year because on May 19 Cathedral High formally dedicated it’s recently constructed gymnasium.
“Just think, a year ago we looked outside our windows and all we saw were trees and an old basketball court,” Deshawn Gibbons, one of the team’s three co-captains, said at the gym’s opening celebration.
“But now look. Lights, camera, action. This is just as good as the Garden,” he said, referring to the TD Banknorth Garden where the team played its championship game.
The project includes a regulation-size basketball court, bleachers, locker rooms with showers and a weight room. It will be used to start physical education and health classes for all students as well as provide space for intramural and varsity sports.
At the opening celebration, students, and teachers wore green T-shirts and filled the new bleachers. Cheerleaders rallied the crowd. The school’s gospel choir sang, “Oh, Happy Day.” Mayor Thomas M. Menino cut the ribbon, and Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley blessed the building.
John J. Remondi, president of the school’s board of trustees, said the school, which was built in 1927, has never had a gymnasium. The recent addition is a sign of the school’s vitality, he added.
“As we all know, Catholic schools all across the country are under serious financial pressure. As we have witnessed, a number of them have been forced to close. Boston is no different,” he said. “However, this gym I think is a message, a message that there is support for schools.”
“Cathedral will continue to grow and prosper. Cathedral is here to stay,” he said.
Remondi also thanked all those who contributed to the gym project, singling out all the alumni and benefactors in attendance.
Cardinal O’Malley said that the school expansion is part of a long Catholic tradition of education. For almost 2000 years the Church has educated people and has established the largest private school system in history with millions of people educated in the United States alone, he said.
“The schools exist because of a great spirit of sacrifice,” he said.
In the past that sacrifice was made by religious sisters and brothers who dedicated their lives to teaching. Now, lay people carry on that legacy with the same sense of mission and sacrifice, he said.
“Our hearts are filled with so much joy as we look at the students sitting there. You are what Catholic education is all about. This is for you because you are so important,” he said.
Menino, who attended Catholic school for 12 years, said education should build up the body as well as the mind in order to give students the opportunity to succeed.
“We do it for the young people, so you have that well-rounded education,” he said, adding that 95 percent of Cathedral’s graduating class each year goes on to higher education.
Christol Murch, the school’s principal, agreed with Menino, saying, “Our mission at Cathedral High School is to educate the whole child.”
The school has high expectations for students to reach the full potential of their God-given talents, she said.
Magdala Jean-Jules, president of the student council and member of the school’s gospel choir, said the gym will allow students to hold practices, games and events.
“Finally we have a gym that’s our own,” she said. “I am on the volleyball team, and this season was a rough one for us. We had no court to practice in. We would try to practice outside, but we had no net. Although we worked with what we had and we were a good, strong team, we could have done better if we had a gym.”