Click here to see a gallery of photos of the dedication.

By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

UPPER PROVIDENCE TOWNSHIP – Cardinal Justin Rigali dedicated the new, $65 million, state-of-the-art Pope John Paul II High School in Upper Providence Township, central Montgomery County, Sunday, Sept. 19.

“Be not afraid to seek the splendor of truth and to live the Gospel of life,” the Cardinal said in his homily at the 2 p.m. dedication Mass in the school auditorium.

“These words that form the motto of this new school highlight three significant themes of Pope John Paul II. They identify the attitude of mind and heart that characterize disciples of Jesus.”

Pope John Paul II is the first archdiocesan secondary school building built since Bishop Shanahan High School moved its campus from West Chester to Downingtown in 1998, and first new archdiocesan high school formed since Archbishop John Carroll in Radnor was founded in 1967. {{more}}

“There are literally hundreds and hundreds of people who worked tirelessly to bring to fruition our new school community,” said the president, Father Alan J. Okon, in concluding remarks of the Mass.

“More so than ever in this assignment that I have been given I have recognized and given thanks to God for the people He has sent.”

Located on an 84-acre tract of land in Upper Providence Township off the Royersford exit of Route 422, the majority of the 900-member student body is made up of students from the former St. Pius X High School in Pottstown and Kennedy-Kenrick Catholic High School in Norristown. Both schools, which were located in Montgomery County, closed in June.

At 209,000-square-feet, Pope John Paul II High has a capacity for 1,200 students.

The school’s adherence to Catholic identity is apparent upon arriving on campus, as the focal point of the structure is a stately, 24-foot high outdoor cross, made of steel and painted white, which soars above the chapel.

The school chapel, situated in the front center of the building, is the heart of the school. It features a grand stained glass window from the now-closed Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Southwest Philadelphia. The window depicts Jesus giving the keys of the kingdom to St. Peter and a depiction of St. Peter’s Basilica in the background.

The school’s namesake has a prominent place on the property: a 6-foot bronze statue of Pope John Paul II stands in an outdoor plaza in close proximity to the chapel’s stained glass window.

The main entrance is adjacent to the chapel.

Richard McCarron, archdiocesan Secretary for Catholic Education, can attest to the students’ respect for their Catholic faith based on an observation he made on the school’s opening day. When the students were instructed by an administrator via the public address system to process in reverent silence to the auditorium for Mass, one could hear a pin drop.

“I was blown away,” McCarron said. “Nine hundred kids left their classrooms in absolute silence and entered that auditorium and remained silent.”

Crucifixes, statues and Easter candles, among other religious artifacts from St. Pius X and Kennedy-Kenrick schools, have been incorporated into the Pope John Paul II High School building.

“The first thing we did as a school community of John Paul II was celebrate Mass,” Father Okon said.

Father Stephen P. DeLacy, who serves as the school minister, said, “I am so spoiled to be here.”

“Even though we are fully committed to having the best technology and the best academics, we really see our bottom-line success as whether or not our students are growing closer to our Lord. Do they understand the faith that they’ve received and are they devoted to what the Lord has given to them?”

Masses are celebrated at 7:30 a.m. daily and the first Friday of the month. Communion liturgies are held prior to lunch period. Back-to-school confessions will be offered Wednesday, Sept. 29 and Thursday, Sept. 30.

A cutting-edge sports and spirituality program is also planned, as is a Christian leadership training program. To further foster the spiritual life of the student athletes, team Masses will be celebrated and each team has a parent representative who serves as a liaison between the team and the school ministry office.

In addition, prayer groups for parents and faculty are being formed.

“I absolutely love this school,” said Margaret Rauh, a senior from St. Pius X High.

A member of the school’s leadership team, Rauh helped organize summertime get-to-know-you socials for each grade and now assists her peers as all acclimate to the new school.

“Both schools had many traditions they’re leaving behind,” Rauh said. “We need to bring some of them but also start new traditions for the school that underclassmen can carry on.”

Rosanella Badalamenti, a freshman and 2010 alumna of St. Teresa of Avila School in Norristown, is thrilled to be among the class of freshmen who, four years from now, will be the first graduating class to attend Pope John Paul II High all four years.

“Starting high school in a brand new school is great,” she said. “I love all my classes, my teachers, everyone in it.”

Badalamenti belongs to the show choir and is one of four freshmen who made the cut to be a varsity cheerleader.

Dan Gregori, a senior from Kennedy-Kenrick High, is also a member of the student leadership team. He agrees that the new school year is off to a good start. “The kids from both schools are blending very well.”

He was amazed that on the first day of classes, the majority of students socialized for a significant time before they entered the building. “There had to be 600 kids standing outside the door, not even walking inside,” Gregori said.

Father Okon is the former president of St. Pius X and Kennedy-Kenrick. The administrators assisting him are: principal Judy Owens, who was the principal of St. Pius X High, and assistant principal Sister Janet Purcell of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, previously the principal of Kennedy-Kenrick High.

The school has 43 faculty members and a staff of nearly 20.

The ground for Pope John Paul II High was blessed in May 2008, with groundbreaking occurring in September of that year.

For more information about Pope John Paul II High School, contact Meghan Callen, director of admissions, at 484-975-6500 or visit the web site

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or