DRAPER -- Four years of dreaming, designing and planning coupled with a generous donation have transformed a 57-acre Draper field into an educational oasis.
"Emotionally, today represents the culmination of the wonderfully creative four-year period that has allowed the diocese to produce a school that is modern yet fundamentally consistent with our Catholic beliefs," said Galey Colosimo, principal of Juan Diego High.With the dedication of the state-of-the-art Skaggs Catholic Center Sunday, Juan Diego Catholic High School and St. John the Baptist Elementary School will provide the same secular curriculum taught with the traditional Catholic values as St. Joseph Catholic High School in Ogden, Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt Lake and numerous Catholic elementary schools throughout the valley.
Only now, most students will be much closer to home.
"It's been a grueling process but a very rewarding one that has allowed us to produce what we think is the finest Catholic school facility ever built," Colosimo said.
Sam and Aline Skaggs, for which the center is named, donated the funds to make the building possible.
"We have certainly sensed the tremendous enthusiasm of the people to have these facilities in their area and for the gratitude and generosity of the Skaggs Family," Monsignor J. Terrence Fitzgerald said.
"As we prepare for the new millennium, the Skaggs Catholic Center will serve as a symbol of God's abundant love unfolding in our midst. For this blessing were are extremely grateful," Bishop George H. Niederauer of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City said.
Bishop Niederauer, with Archbishop William Levada, of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, and approximately 3,000 community and church members in attendance, dedicated the $37.2 million facility.
"Bless drama and dance, song and painting, all of the arts, may their celebration strengthen our love for the beauty of creation and our respect for the sacredness of human life," he said.
"Bless, too, the sciences, that their disciplined inquiry may reveal the mysteries of your power, so the creative work of your hands continues."
In a time when the moral fiber of the world is slowing eroding, the Skaggs Catholic Center is another place where high moral values will be taught, Draper City Mayor Richard D. Alsop said.
"What a wonderful thing it is to have the teaching of curriculum combined with the instilling of values such as integrity, charity, mutual trust and respect, sensitivity and kindness toward others and reverence for life, property and sacred things." he said.
"One could only wonder if violent tragedies on school campuses would have been averted by such values in the hearts of students."
Juan Diego High School has a capacity of 1,700 students, but in its first month, it is operating with 300 students in the ninth and 10th grades. Eleventh- and 12th-grade students will be added beginning with the 2000 school year.
St. John the Baptist Elementary has a capacity of 700 students, but is operating with just under 900 students. To accommodate for the extra students, the middle school has been moved to an unoccupied portion of the high school.
The new facility also operates the Guardian Angel Day Care, and it will also house the St. John the Baptist Parish.
"This great Catholic school complex is like none other. Not only is it the largest, but now it is being seen as a model by Catholic educators. For its state-of-the-art design and for the educational excellence it will provide, it is truly breathtaking," Gov. Leavitt said.
Following Mass, Sam and Aline Skaggs were made a Knight and Lady of St. Gregory, the highest honor that is bestowed upon any Catholic lay person. They also received a papal blessing by Bishop Niederauer, which was passed down to him from Pope John Paul II.
Juan Diego High was named after an Aztec Indian who lived in Mexico 500 years ago and who was visited by the Virgin Mary. He was asked to build a church in her honor.
The Soaring Eagle is the mascot of the high school, and its colors are royal blue, turquoise and silver -- colors found in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.