COLEGIO SAN ANTONIO, founded in 1919, serves 250 students from Pre-K through 12th grade and is administered by the Sisters of St. Dominic, Amityville. The school is located in the town of Isabela on the northwest coast of Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Maria nearly destroyed a key part of the school’s campus, “St. Dominic’s Building,” a two story structure which houses a 560 seat theatre and a gymnasium. A large basketball/volleyball court adjoining the building was also rendered unusable.
It has been determined that the building remains a viable structure but needs to be gutted and reconstructed on the inside. While insurance will cover some of the costs, it is estimated that many thousands of dollars will be needed to complete the renovations as well as replace theatre seats, costumes, props, electrical and sports equipment, etc.
Currently the roof of the building continues to leak and cause ongoing damage and mold. Given the school’s proximity to the ocean, salt water and daily tropical rain showers exacerbate the situation.
The loss of St. Dominic’s Building affects the students and faculty who are attending school Masses at the local parish church, where assemblies and meetings also take place. This year’s graduation ceremony is scheduled at the church. The school’s sports programs are on hiatus, as well as local tournaments for volleyball and basketball.
But the loss of the use of St. Dominic’s Building extends beyond the student body and their teachers. The theatre at Colegio San Antonio becomes a focal point for the town of Isabela when there is a student production. Friends and neighbors attend the shows and provide financial and emotional support for the young people’s efforts. And the sports facilities offer a safe space for informal after school games and competitions.
We have all seen the devastation and slow recovery efforts across Puerto Rico in the months since the hurricane. Our Parish Lenten Project this year will be directed towards helping one school in one town move toward the restoration of one building which has such importance in their lives. Our assistance will enable both students and townspeople to know that they have not been forgotten and that their struggles to return to pre-hurricane living are supported.