By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Among those who’d gathered for the opening and blessing of the new Archdiocese of Louisville Pastoral Center Oct. 28 were parishioners of Holy Family Church and former students and teachers of its old school.
The Pastoral Center, 3940 Poplar Level Road, stands tall on the site of Holy Family School — which closed its doors in 2014.
The school building was remodeled and combined with new construction on the site of the former convent to create the archdioceses’s new headquarters.
As the visitors toured the new center during an open house, those familiar with the school pointed out their old classrooms. They commented on the ways in which the building has changed and how some parts of it have remained the same.
Margaret Ball, who attended the open house, taught at Holy Family School for 19 years and was there when it closed. Ball noted that she’d visited the center soon after it opened in September.
“As soon as I got off the elevator and saw the long hallway, I thought, it’s the same building,” she said. “The building is beautiful. It’s fun to come in here and remember the different places.”
Zach Thomas, one of Ball’s former students who attended the open house, reminisced about the school and noted that some walls have been moved slightly, but overall, the school is still very much as it was when he graduated.
Even a notorious spot known as “the wall,” a place where misbehaving students had to sit during recess, is still there, said Thomas, who graduated from Holy Family a year before it closed. “The wall” has been turned into a patio that faces the rear parking lot — a place where staff plan to have lunch on nice days.
Among the school’s other former educators who attended the open house were Ann Peterson, who taught second-grade; Patsy Markert, who was a guidance counselor; Kathlene Riley, a former reading specialist; and Rosanne Dillon, who was principal of Holy Family School for 25 years.
All said they are pleased to see the old school being put to good use. Dillon said she used to drive by while the building was under construction and always said a prayer that it would be put to good use.
“I like that it’ll bring a new vigor to this whole part of town,” she said. “I know some wonderful people will be working in here.”
Sue Knabel was one of Dillon’s students in the second grade. Knabel said being in the building brought back memories of her childhood. “It’s amazing what can be done with planning, expertise and vision,” she said. “It’s changed, but still familiar.”
Many, too, were pondering the idea of cherishing the past while embracing something new.
Pat Carrico, who’s been a member of Holy Family Church since 1965, said he couldn’t be happier with the decision to have the archdiocese’s headquarters at Holy Family.
Carrico said he lives three blocks away from the parish and both his children attended the school.
“It’s a wonderful facility and an upgrade for the whole community. It’s a new and exciting part of the community,” he said. “Having the archdiocese here and the archbishop’s presence in our community is uplifting.”
Some parishioners also hope the new center and all its activities will lead to new growth in the church.
Ruth Browning, who lives a stone’s throw from the church and the new center, said she was sad to see the school closed — all eight of her children attended Holy Family School. But building the center on the site is a “great idea,” she said. Browning said the parish is not quite what it used to be. The number of younger parishioners has dwindled over the years, she noted. “I’m very hopeful this new center will bring more people into the church.”
Betty Knabel, another parishioner, said seeing the school closed was difficult. Knabel worked in Holy Family School’s cafeteria and her five children, including Sue Knabel, attended the school.
“Change is hard and people weren’t sure what would happen with the school building,” she said. But she is “thrilled,” she said, with the new center and the idea of having the archdiocese’ central offices on the church’s campus. “I see progress in our parish.”
Sue Knabel added that some parishioners were worried about what would happen to the church without the school. “It’s an active, vibrant parish even without a school,” she said. “It can work.”
Deacon Patrick Wright, the pastoral administrator of Holy Family Church, said the center and activity that comes with it will “breathe new life” into the parish. “It’s nice to be able to join the staff (of the archdiocese) to work for the good of the church and the neighborhood.”
Deacon Wright said he looks forward to Holy Family parishioners and the archdiocese working together to reach out to the people in the Camp Taylor neighborhood. Some people in that neighborhood, he noted, are struggling.