Student-athletes look around Donovan Catholic's new fully equipped athletic training facility. Mike Ehrmann photo
Student-athletes look around Donovan Catholic's new fully equipped athletic training facility. Mike Ehrmann photo

The days of weight training, strengthening and conditioning in the confined quarters under Donovan Catholic’s gym are a thing of the past. 

The Toms River high school student-athletes and their coaches can now look forward to working out in a new, state-of-the-art, fully equipped athletic training facility.

To celebrate the building’s official opening, Bishop David. M. O’Connell, C.M., presided over an outdoor prayer service and ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 14 on the property, which is located adjacent to the Donovan Catholic and St. Joseph Parish and School campus. The facility was transformed from a vacant house.

Visiting a school community and celebrating Catholic education is as if “the sun is piercing through the clouds of the pandemic today,” said the Bishop, who stood in front of the facility with Father Scott Shaffer, pastor of St. Joseph Parish and director of Donovan Catholic.

Photo Gallery: Bishop Blesses New Donovan Catholic Athletic Training Facility

With students, coaches, clergy, and school and town officials looking on, Bishop O’Connell recited a prayer before blessing the facility with holy water: “We entreat your kindness, that this place and its facilities will contribute to leisure activities that renew the spirit and strengthen both mind and body. Grant that all who meet here may find the enrichment of companionship and together offer you the praise that is your due. We ask this through Christ our Lord.”

Agreeing that it was “a glorious, awesome day,” longtime strength and conditioning Coach Mark Deppen noted the importance of athletes sufficiently preparing for their sport because exercising helps prevent injuries and builds confidence and self-esteem.

“Strength and conditioning is a very mental activity,” he said, adding that when it comes to lifting weights, 95 percent is mental and five percent is physical strength and ability. “Strength and conditioning is about developing a mindset to better yourself overall.”

Bishop O’Connell also emphasized that sentiment during the afternoon prayer ceremony, saying, “God has given us our physical powers in order that we may serve him joyously, help one another, and by discipline in accord with the law of God, make our body fit for every good work. God therefore approves of recreation for the relaxation of the mind and the exercise of the body. Care of our bodies fosters well-being, and we more readily establish friendly and affable relations with other people.”

Father Shaffer, in proclaiming a Reading from 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, said, “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way.” 

Among those in the audience or on hand to offer remarks were Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, the Diocese’s new superintendent of Catholic schools; Dr. Edward Gere, Donovan Catholic principal; and Toms River Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill, who came equipped with a large pair of gold ceremonial scissors for the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Appreciation was also extended to two school families who donated to the project through their commercial businesses. Both have student-athletes in the school.

The Kyriakoulis family, owners of Interface Tile in Lakewood, donated tile materials for the flooring and walls as well as the rubber mats placed beneath the equipment. The Vetter family, owners of Burger 25 in Toms River, was recognized for their financial contribution.

“I’m ecstatic to see this happening,” said Peter Kyriakoulis, father of Athena, a 2020 Donovan Catholic graduate, and Preston, a junior and soccer player. “When you maintain yourself, you will then be able to treat others well.”

Deppen praised the many people who supported the project during the 16 months it took to work through the logistics and legalities needed to transform the vacant house into the new training facility.

“Without the power of the Lord and prayer, this would not have happened,” he said, adding with a smile that he was happy to relocate from a small space underneath the gym to “this five-star hotel.”