In 1998, St. Joseph school began in the basement of the church rectory. Things looked grim, however, when two months later, the City of Wayne informed the pastor that the school would have to go. “The fire marshal informed us that we were violating the safety code,” said Fr. Francisco Radecki, pastor of St. Joseph parish. Resolved to save the school, however, Fr. Radecki fell to his knees and prayed for a miracle. “We moved the children to the church basement, but I knew that we had to find a more suitable place, but we had no money to buy a building.”
With one last hope, Fr. Radecki made an appointment with the mayor and school board director. “I will never forget that,” he said, “because it was October 28—the feast of St. Jude.” The school board not only listened to Fr. Radecki’s concerns, but sold the parish two double-wide modulars for $1 each. “And that was the beginning of St. Joseph school,” he said.
St. Joseph school flourished in those ten years. St. Jude could not rest on his laurels, however. In 2009, Fr. Radecki was once again informed that time had run out and zoning ordinances restricted further use of the modulars. The building fund was not ready for such a financial burden and numerous attempts over the years to find a suitable site for the school had failed. Fr. Radecki is not one to run from a challenge. His devotion to the parish and unequivocal faith in God left no room for despair. “Jesus loves children,” he said. “You have to trust in God.”
Miraculously, a run-down building across the street from the church went up for sale. Few would have had the courage to take on such a challenge. “We had to completely gut it,” he said. “The building was in the worse shape I could even imagine. There was very little from the building that we could use besides three walls, the concrete floor and the metal trusses.” Structural deficiencies were not the only problem, however. Asbestos lined the floors and black mold covered the back walls. There were those who scoffed at his fervor but he continued with relentless determination.
Contributions began pouring in. Over 80 businesses donated lights, acoustical tile, metal studs, drywall, paint and plumbing. The Hilton foundation contributed $10,000 and parishioners opened up their wallets and their hearts to give whatever they could.
Twenty dumpsters later, the canvas became ready for the artist. Artisans from every craft came forward to donate their time and energy. From the ruins of an architectural nightmare emerged a state-of-the art school and an answer to prayers. As for Fr. Radecki, he refuses to take credit for the realization of such a daunting goal. “I was told, ‘This is My school; I will take care of it’, and that’s all I needed to know.”