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By Elena Macias

St. Jeanne de Lestonnac High School celebrated a ribbon cutting ceremony for its brand new campus building on Sept. 8. The day included a Mass celebrated by Bishop Alberto Rojas and a blessing of the new building.

“It is with a lot of gratitude and joy that we come together on this day. It’s meaningful to all of us and hopefully to the city and the community around us,” Bishop Rojas said. “So let us prepare to celebrate this Eucharist in Thanksgiving and in gratitude for all the people who have been involved in different ways, for all the students that have graduated here and are now benefactors and supporters of the school.”

The day began with Sister Ernestine Velarde, ODN, pPresident of St. Jeanne De Lestonnac Schools, welcoming those in attendance and thanking them for coming to celebrate the grand opening of their new high school building. Both St. Jeanne de Lestonnac School (preschool - 8th grade) and St. Jeanne de Lestonnac High School are ministries of the Sisters of the Company of Mary religious community.

“Today, September 8, 2023, again the Feast of the Birth of Mary, we gather to celebrate our own expansion,” Sister Velarde said. “We come here to participate in the blessing of this new high school building, where many more young men and women now have the opportunity, not only for an excellent academic education and a strong foundation in the Catholic faith, but also receive a well-rounded formation founded on a unique educational charism, the benefits of which have been tested through time and on a worldwide scale.”

Some of those in attendance included Bishop Rojas, Bishop Emeritus Gerald R. Barnes, and several leaders of the Sisters of the Company of Mary, including Superior General, Sister Rita Calvo, Vicar General, Sister Cristina Sanz, Provincial Superior of the Province of the Pacific, Sister Maria Helena Peña, and Diocesan Chancellor, Sister Leticia Salazar. Also attending were Dr. Samuel Torres, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, and many priests. Some members of the civic also attended, including Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce Board Member Corinna York, Temecula City Council Member Jessica Alexander, and a representative from the office of California State Assemblymember Kate Sanchez.

After the ribbon cutting by Sister Velarde, the attendees were invited to move into the auditorium to celebrate Mass with Bishop Rojas. After Mass, Bishop Rojas was led through the new high school building to bless the rooms. Assisted by student altar servers and Sister Velarde, Bishop Rojas blessed the new chapel, classrooms and faculty rooms with holy water.

While Bishop Rojas was blessing the school’s new chapel, Sister Velarde told him the significance of the stained-glass window that is centered behind the altar. The chapel highlights an originally designed stained glass window that depicts Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac’s spiritual experience in the Cistercian Monastery and reflects the moment of conception of the founding of the Order.

“We also ask the Lord to send his blessing upon this stained-glass window,” Bishop Rojas said as he blessed the altar and window with holy water. “May the Lord in His mercy continue to help us become like this stained-glass window, each one of us, people who let the light of God go through for others in their lives.”

According to the school, the chapel’s altar is also an original piece, made by local Temecula craftsman John Meier. Forming the base of the altar are grape vine stalks from one of the oldest local wineries. The altar is meant to reflect not only the Temecula Wine Country, but the sacredness of creation in the Eucharistic celebration.

In addition to celebrating the completed construction of their new high school building, the school also celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Canonization of St. Jeanne de Lestonnac and the Sisters of the Company of Mary, Our Lady’s 30-year anniversary of their educational establishment in the Temecula Valley.

Elena Macias is the Managing Editor of the Inland Catholic BYTE.