ALSAM Family Foundation gives St. Andrew Parish gift of school

Friday, Dec. 08, 2006
ALSAM Family Foundation gives St. Andrew Parish gift of school Photo 1 of 2
Father Francisco Pires, pastor of St Andrew Parish, Riverton, supervises the break-down of the ?moving sacristy and chapel? from Larry Miller's Megaplex 20, and the packing of the chapel furnishings into a van. Another van carries religious items for sale and after-Mass social hour equipment. IC photos by Barbara S. Lee

RIVERTON — Applause, smiles, and even a few tears were evident Dec. 3 when members of St. Andrew Parish, Riverton, learned from their pastor, Father Francisco Pires, that through the generosity of the ALSAM Family Foundation, their new parish will soon begin building a school.

The ALSAM Family Foundation, under the direction of Sam and Aline Skaggs, built the day care-through-high school Skaggs Catholic Center in Draper, which opened in 1999. The new St. Andrew School, initially serving students from kindergarten through grade six, will serve as an additional feeder school for St. John the Baptist Middle School and Juan Diego Catholic High School at the Skaggs Catholic Center.

"This is great news," said Fr. Pires, first at an early morning Spanish Mass, then at the 10 a.m. Mass in English. "We are very grateful to (Diocesan Administrator) Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald and Dr. Galey Colosimo (principal of Juan Diego Catholic High School) for working so hard on our behalf to facilitate this generous gift during this Advent time, as we begin this new liturgical year."

A casual glance around the parish’s congregations reveals that St. Andrew Parish certainly has a lot of children, and parents were eager to tell the Intermountain Catholic how they felt about the gift.

"It’s good news for everyone," said Mary Archuletta after the 10 a.m. Mass. "But it is the best news for our children, who will have a Catholic elementary school in the neighborhood."

Stephanie Valdez said she was happy to learn of the new school, but is concerned about how expensive it will be to send her children there. "I hope they make it easier for people like me, a single mother. I would really like to be able to send my child to a Catholic school."

Stacia Ardrey has two daughters and was excited by the news.

"I know this community has been looking forward to a Catholic school for a while. It’s been a long time coming."

Mary Jane Smith, a grandmother who has just moved into the community from California, said she was thrilled, first to find a new parish in Riverton, and now about the news of the new school.

"I have been to St. John the Baptist School, and it is beautiful," she said. "I think the generosity of the Skaggs family is wonderful. It will be great to have a school on this side of the freeway, a little closer to home."

John Flores, leaving Mass with one child in his arms, and another walking along side, said he was "thrilled to hear the news. "Our children are over at St. John the Baptist now, but this school will be closer and more convenient."

"Education and works of charity within Utah have greatly benefited from the personal generosity of Sam and Aline Skaggs, their children, and foundations," said Diocesan Administrator Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald. "Again we have been gifted by their ALSAM Foundation with a grant of several million dollars for the new St. Andrew Catholic School and parish planned for Riverton, Utah. The elementary school will enable us to offer Catholic education for families at the southwest end of the valley and serve as a feeder for schools at the Skaggs Catholic Center.

"As administrator of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, I express heartfelt gratitude for this generous gift and thank the trustees of the ALSAM Foundation, especially the members of the Skaggs Family, for their support of Catholic education in Riverton. The lives of young people will be enriched because of their generosity. The parishioners of the new Saint Andrew Parish have been given a marvelous gift and now must meet the challenge of building the new parish."

Members of St. Andrew Parish seem to be up to the challenge of which Msgr. Fitzgerald speaks. Holy Cross Sister Patricia Riley, ministering along-side Fr. Pires, said the Sunday collections from both the Spanish and the English Masses have been generous.

Granted, the theater setting is a comfortable one, parishioners seem very willing to trade upholstered seats for pews.

With the school ground breaking expected this coming spring at the southeast corner of 11800 South and 1300 West, parishioners already have a building fund in place for the new St. Andrew Catholic Church.

Fr. Pires has developed a "rolling ministry." He unpacks everything he needs to turn a theater into a church from the back of two vans donated by parishioners. Then he packs it all back up after two Masses. He said he’s gotten somewhat used to the unusual routine. For the time being, parish religious education classes are being taught in rooms provided by Wasatch Memorial Park. Confirmation classes are taught in the rectory. Members of the Knights of Columbus were on hand after both Masses Dec. 3, recruiting members for the new parish’s K of C council, which will include parishioners from both the Spanish- and English-speaking communities.

Fr. Pires said he thinks those who attended the Spanish Mass "still can’t grasp the gift. It’s a huge leap forward for this community. The ALSAM Family Foundation is providing us with a school, a parking lot – everything but the church. It’s so important that our people build their own church."

Witnessing the birth of a new parish community is nothing new in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, still considered a missionary diocese. The new St. Andrew Parish will serve the communities of Riverton, West Jordan, and Daybreak, and surrounding communities.

In his homily Fr. Pires spoke of the importance to Catholics of reliance on God.

"I’d like it recorded that I frequently asked God to show me just how He wanted me to act, asked Him to tell me just what he wanted me to say to others, shaped me to be the man He dreamed I could be."

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