New school formed following merger serves 242 students
By Jill Kruse-Domeyer
Witness Editorial Assistant
SPILLVILLE — There is a new Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Dubuque this academic year: St. Teresa of Calcutta School, located in southern Winneshiek County.
The new school represents the consolidation of two former schools: Calmar-Festina-Spillville Catholic Schools and St. Francis de Sales School, out of Ossian. The new school’s principal, Kristin Kriener, said St. Teresa of Calcutta is “the result of four years’ worth of collaboration and teamwork.”
With centers located in Calmar, Spillville and Ossian, St. Teresa of Calcutta School currently serves 242 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade as well as 33 children in its child care center.
The process of selecting a name for the new school began last year when students spent time researching different saints. They eventually narrowed their choices down to three possibilities. The school board ranked those three names in order of preference and submitted the results to Archbishop Michael Jackels. The archbishop was responsible for making the final decision and chose St. Teresa of Calcutta.
Father G. Robert Gross, the pastoral coordinator of the new school and the pastor of the four parishes served by the school, St. Aloysius, Calmar; Our Lady of Seven Dolors, Festina; St. Francis de Sales, Ossian; and St. Wenceslaus, Spillville, feels the saint was a good choice.
“The Lord reveals his wisdom bit by bit,” the priest said, and “this has been the case for our patron Mother Teresa.”
“When we submitted her name for the archbishop to consider, we were inspired by her deep love for Jesus and for the poor. We were inspired by how concrete her love was for Jesus in others,” Father Gross said.
“As we learned more about Mother Teresa, we also learned that she was a school teacher and also a principal of a school in India before she began the Missionaries of Charity,” he said. “We also learned that she was an effective and organized administrator. She formed those skills in a Catholic school. So, I feel even more blessed by the Lord to have her as our spiritual mother in our school.”
Father Gross’ brother-in-law Chris Graziano, an art teacher from Wisconsin, provided a special gift to the new school by creating three portraits of Mother Teresa at different ages in her life. The artwork will be showcased at the new school.
“He really has a wonderful gift, and I am so grateful that he was able to share that gift with our school,” Father Gross said.
The portraits were on display Friday, Aug. 30, as members of the new St. Teresa of Calcutta School community gathered in Spillville to celebrate their first all-school Mass, with Archbishop Jackels presiding.
Principal Kriener said at the Mass that day she was “overwhelmed with joy.” “After hundreds of hours of work by committee members, it was beautiful to see all of these children together celebrating Mass,” she said.
“I cannot thank our staff enough for all of the extra time and energy they have put forth,” Kriener said. “Many of them have been on multiple committees to make this transition as seamless as possible.”
“It has been tiring, challenging and sometimes frustrating,” she added, “but their determination, positivity and selflessness can write a wonderful new chapter for St. Teresa.”
Archbishop Michael Jackels (far left) poses with a group of school administrators and supporters on the altar of St. Wenceslaus Church in Spillville on Aug. 30, the day of the first all-school Mass for the newly formed St. Teresa of Calcutta School. The portrait of the saint in the center of the photo was painted by artist Chris Graziano (far right). Graziano is a brother-in-law of Father G. Robert Gross (third from right), pastoral coordinator of the new school and the pastor of the four parishes served by the school. (Contributed photo)