Oct 092014

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

DeWitt — Father Jim Vrba, pastor of St. John Vianney parish in Bettendorf, looks back on his days as a student of St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt with a sense of fondness. “Some of my best memories were of being super involved in the parish through the school … I value the education I received at St. Joseph,” he said, noting that his experiences there helped lead him to priesthood.
On Oct. 18, Fr. Vrba will return to St. Joseph Catholic School for its 150th anniversary celebration. Alumni, faculty, and the community are invited to take part in the sesquicentennial event at the school and ad-joining church. The event will feature school tours, Mass, social hour, dinner, and silent and live auctions.

St. Joseph Catholic School was founded in 1864 by Sisters of Charity from Dubuque. It survived several location changes and fires before settling into the current site on the St. Joseph Parish campus in 1954. It offered both grade school and high school-level education until 1968; the school currently hosts preschool through eighth-grade students.
Principal Sharon Roling said, “The fact that a Catholic school has been in existence for 150 years in a small rural town is a credit to the parish and the community who uphold that Catholic tradition.”

School and facility tours will begin at 3 p.m. Fr. Vrba will concelebrate the 4:30 p.m. Mass with Father Paul Connolly, St. Joseph’s pastor, and Father Robert McAleer, a retired diocesan priest and St. Joe’s alumnus.

Following Mass, a social hour and silent auction will take place. Dinner is at 6:30 p.m. with a live auction afterward. The auctions will feature student-created art items, a whole hog, beef, an American Girl doll, and art prints featuring a collage of all five St. Joseph Catholic School locations throughout the years.

The tours, Mass and auction are no charge; the dinner and social hour tickets are $25 per person and can be purchased by contacting Beth Gravert at (563) 659-3812 or beth.gravert@ Deadline to buy tickets is Oct. 13.

The celebration in October is one of several ways the school is choosing to commemorate St. Joseph’s sesquicentennial. Currently, teachers and students are participating in a novena that will continue until the end of the semester. The students have posed for a picture wearing 150th anniversary t-shirts (both the photographic service and t-shirts were donated). Monthly activities recognizing the sesquicentennial will continue throughout the academic year, including the 150th day of school.

Roling said of the sesquicentennial celebration, “We just want to celebrate who we are and welcome everyone — I think that’s all part of the Catholic tradition.”

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