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School's new sports court is 'dream come true'

Mother of Our Redeemer upgrades athletic facilities, adding basketball-volleyball court

Heat mascot Burnie entertains Jonathan Hecht, 3, and his brother, Sebastian Hecht, 5, after the blessing of Mother of Our Redeemer School's new basketball-volleyball court, Jan. 27, 2020.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Heat mascot Burnie entertains Jonathan Hecht, 3, and his brother, Sebastian Hecht, 5, after the blessing of Mother of Our Redeemer School's new basketball-volleyball court, Jan. 27, 2020.

Mother of Our Redeemer's pastor, Father Juan Pedro Hernandez, shoots at the basket as Burnie, the Miami Heat mascot, looks on, part of the fun that followed the blessing of the school's new basketball-volleyball court, Jan. 27, 2020.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Mother of Our Redeemer's pastor, Father Juan Pedro Hernandez, shoots at the basket as Burnie, the Miami Heat mascot, looks on, part of the fun that followed the blessing of the school's new basketball-volleyball court, Jan. 27, 2020.

Fourth-graders Matthew Camert and Kevin Martinez high-five the Miami Heat's Burnie after the blessing of Mother of Our Redeemer's new basketball-volleyball court, Jan. 27, 2020.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Fourth-graders Matthew Camert and Kevin Martinez high-five the Miami Heat's Burnie after the blessing of Mother of Our Redeemer's new basketball-volleyball court, Jan. 27, 2020.

Catholic Schools Week is celebrated this year from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1.

Photographer:

Catholic Schools Week is celebrated this year from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1.

MIAMI | Since the school opened in 2003, Mother of Our Redeemer students have played basketball in the school courtyard, on two hoops attached to the school’s wall. When this school year began, one hoop lacked a net and the net on the other was badly worn. A competitive school basketball team was just a dream.

That dream came closer to reality Jan. 27, when Archbishop Thomas Wenski came by to dedicate the school’s new basketball-volleyball court. The archbishop, along with school principal Ana Casariego and Mother of Our Redeemer’s pastor, Father Juan Pedro Hernandez, cut a red ribbon at the gate to the fenced-in-facility to officially open the court. “Burnie,” the Miami Heat mascot, entertained the school’s students as they lined the court’s boundaries, inviting them to dance and play with him.

“I’ve been waiting for a basketball court since I started at Mother of Our Redeemer 11 years ago,” said the Barracudas’ athletic director, Joseph Paolercio. “Now we can start to develop athletic skills among our students and eventually compete in the All Catholic Sports Conference in the Archdiocese of Miami. The court serves a dual purpose, basketball-volleyball. We can focus on those two sports.”

The small preK3 through eighth-grade school in the northwesternmost corner of Miami-Dade County has 223 students, only one class for each grade. It is a feeder-school for Msgr. Edward Pace and Archbishop Edward McCarthy high schools. Because of the lack of facilities, Mother of Our Redeemer students haven’t had much opportunity to develop athletic skills.

“We have a girls volleyball team and boys and girls track and field,” said Paolercio. “In the past, we had flag football, baseball and soccer. But we have had to go to local parks for practice. This dual purpose, colorful, official court is a giant step forward. It’s amazing. Today, I’m ecstatic. I feel like a little kid looking in the window of a candy store.”

Although student athletic participation is limited now, Paolercio hopes that will change with the new court. Some sixth-grade students said they are eager to be on the team.

“I’d love to be on the girls basketball team,” said Sophia Castellanos, 11. “We have a hoop set up at my house and I play with friends.”

“We now have an opportunity to be on a basketball team,” said Erick Balseiro, 11. “I feel like I will have more time to play with my friends. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. I focus out any problems when I play at sports. Basketball is a way to express yourself. Trying out for the team will be the best thing I do. Just because we’re a small school doesn’t mean you can’t have good sports teams.”

Principal Casariego said the $133,000 court bears the school’s colors, royal blue, light blue and yellow, and noted this marks the start of a better athletic program for the school.

“This was our dream for many years,” she said. “From the beginning there was an interest in having a basketball court. We are hoping to put a canopy over the court in the future.”

Construction began around Thanksgiving and was completed in time for the start of Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 26-Feb. 1.

“We were privileged to have Archbishop Wenski at Mother of Our Redeemer to celebrate Mass with our pastor and speak to our students,” Casariego said.

The theme for the 46th annual National Catholic Schools Week was “Learn, Serve, Lead, Succeed.” In his homily, the archbishop told students that not all are called to be sports stars, but all Catholics are called to be saints.

“Like practicing to be athletes, you must practice, practice, practice, your faith,” the archbishop told the students. “Sports team members must learn the rules. If you don’t know the rules, you’ll mess up the game. If you want to succeed in life, you must learn the rules. This is taught in Catholic schools. A sports star will make the rules part of their life. Practice, practice, practice, that’s how we learn to become saints. We learn our prayers, go to Mass, do good, so that we can get better and live our lives as Christians.”

There are 27 Catholic primary schools in Miami-Dade that participate in the All Catholic Conference and 18 Catholic primary schools in Broward that participate in the All Catholic Conference in Broward. Varsity teams are made up off seventh- and eighth-graders, junior varsity teams are made up of fifth- and sixth-graders.

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