A Groundbreaking and Blessing of the PMA Construction Site

June 3, 2016


by Len Lathrop

A large yellow excavator sat on the grass between the turf field and the 1927 school building.  While it was not officially part of the celebration, when the machine took a bite out of the ground, this new building known as the Thompson Athletic and Arts Center was at that moment more than plans and ideas and excitement; it was physical.  The excavator was making dirt available for Sister Maria Rosa, the principal of Presentation of Mary Academy, and dignitaries, including Sister Helen Cote, pm, provincial superior of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary; Father John Fortin, osb, superintendent of Catholic Schools, Diocese of NH, as these benefactors to the capital campaign put their shovels into the hillside.

The more than 500 students that the academy serves, from three year olds to eighth graders, were there, in the shadow of the giant yellow digging machine, to help celebrate this new addition to their school.  Every student received a shovel and pail embossed with the date of the groundbreaking.  And all were part of this celebration.  As part of the construction site blessing with holy water, the students read requests for blessing, focusing on the PMA school and convent building, and the earth.  Father John used a branch to make the holy water cover the area that the children had requested; then Olivia Rivera was the last reader to request a blessing, asking, “Bless this building with the sounds of joy, laughter and the beauty of the arts, all for the Glory of God.”

The building is scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2017 school year.  The complete project cost is $8.5 million, coming from a variety of sources including a capital campaign goal set at $3 million.  The new arts center will be able to accommodate up to 1,400 people, far eclipsing 180-seat Alumni Hall as the largest meeting place at Presentation of Mary.  The facility will also be available for community events such as music, dance and theater performances.  As a sports center, the 36,000-square-foot gym will offer bleacher seating to accommodate up to 300.  On one side of the building accessible from the gym floor, a mezzanine off the corridor will connect the old and new buildings.  While the new facility is four stories tall, it will attach to the current second floor of the academy, and its ground floor will open at the turf field level with a facility to support the activities on the outdoor field completed in 2012.

The new athletic and performing-arts addition will be named in honor of the Thompson family, who contributed to the capital campaign to make the project a reality.

Performing a reading during the dedication was Sister Connie Perreault, the oldest sister at the academy and also a PMA alumnus, who was helped by one of the preschoolers who had just turned three years old.  Sister Connie read from the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, and Ryan Bahjat added the “The Word of the Lord.”