by: SUBMITTED PHOTO Youngsters at Our Lady of the Lake Parish and School symbolically take whacks at a portion of the school wall that’s coming down as part of a $16 million parish project to build a new school and parish center.

After last Sunday, Our Lady of the Lake Parish and School of Lake Oswego will never be the same.

That is because the groundbreaking ceremony was held for a $16 million project that will build a new school and parish center, a cherished goal that has been 16 years in the planning.

'There were over 200 people there, and the weather was fabulous,' said Kim Calkins, OLL development director. 'We had five tents, but we didn't need them. The weather was absolutely cooperative.'

This august event attracted special guests like Lake Oswego Mayor Jack Hoffman, city councilors Jeff Gudman and Mike Kehoe, and city associate planner Johanna Hastay, who worked on the permit process with OLL.

'I was told this project is going to change the whole landscape of this city,' Calkins said. 'A Avenue is going to have a very different look and feel to it. This is one of the biggest projects in Lake Oswego, and there are going to be a lot of eyes on it.'

This has been a long-time coming. The feasibility study of the project was made in 1995, and momentum really picked up when Father Joseph S. McMahon arrived in 1998 to take over as pastor.

Two huge challenges nearly derailed the plans and dreams. One was the bankruptcy judgment against the Archdiocese of Portland. Then came the huge economic downturn of 2009-10.

As for the first stumbling block, Calkins said, 'Now we're our own wholly incorporated parish.'

As for the second, 'People have come back strong in donations over the past six months. People who could hardly afford to give anything are giving six-figure gifts. The economy is coming back. It's not fantastic, but it's doing better.'

One of the biggest financial blessings Our Lady of the Lake has received is a $150,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to purchase computers and build science labs.

The building project is expected to be complete by the fall of 2012.

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