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Donor gives $5 million to St. Augustine Catholic High

At St. Augustine Catholic High, one of the smallest high schools in Tucson, they know God works in mysterious ways – and that he answers prayers.

But a $5 million gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous was pretty surprising.

Half of it, which the school at 8800 E. 22nd St. already has, will go to build a gymnasium center, said Teresa L. Baker, director of development.

The other half of the $5 million, to be given in $500,000 increments in the next five years, she said, will go to enhance programs and infrastructure.

The school, which has 125 students, will have a groundbreaking and blessing ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Friday with Bishop Gerald Kicanas presiding.

The first phase of the 20,000-square-foot, $3 million center – which will use $2.5 million of the gift and $500,000 raised through private donations last year – will be a regulation-size basketball court, bleachers, lockers, shower facilities, trainer’s room, public restrooms, storage areas and a concession area and kitchen, Baker said. It is expected to be done in November.

The second phase, to start the end of 2010, will have a dance studio, weight room, theater, conference room and commercial kitchen, she said.

The donor “is not Catholic and has no children at the school, but believes the strength of any community is in its citizens, that quality education is important and that God needs to be part of the package,” Baker said.

While school officials knew about the gift last year, they waited for the groundbreaking to announce it.

The donor “thinks sometimes it just takes one person to make a statement like this to prompt others to do the same,” Baker said. “Also, we underestimate that God has a plan and can bring people together to make things happen.”

“This is a phenomenal amount of money for a small Catholic high school, but it will help the East Side as well,” she said. “The gym will open up lots of potential for lots of community involvement on this side of town and we’re willing to share the space.”

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