March 28, 2015
For months, the people of the Sagrado Corazon Hispanic Ministry Center in Donelson have been asking Father David Ramirez “when, when, when” will they move into their new home at the Catholic Pastoral Center overlooking Briley Parkway.
And now he has an answer for them. The Sagrado Corazon community will celebrate the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday, April 4, at the new Catholic Pastoral Center, making the diocesan Hispanic Ministry the first group to move into the facility, which eventually will hold all of the administrative offices and ministries of the Diocese of Nashville.
The Easter Vigil Mass will be the first opportunity for many in the Sagrado Corazon community to see the new Pastoral Center, said Father Ramirez, the director of the Hispanic Ministry for the diocese. “It will be a surprise for them.” Sagrado Corazon is the largest of the 14 communities served by the three priests and three sisters who staff the diocesan Hispanic Ministry office.
The diocese closed on the purchase of the property last August. It was purchased from the Fellowship at Two Rivers for $12.35 million, and is located on 37.5 acres on McGavock Pike across Briley Parkway from Opry Mills and the Opryland Hotel.
The property includes a 226,000-square-foot building that includes two large auditoriums, including one that seats 3,300 people and another that seats 800, other smaller meeting venues, offices, several small chapels, a gymnasium with an elevated running track, and a commercial kitchen.
Sagrado Corazon will celebrate weekend Masses in the main auditorium, which will seat nearly five times as many people as its current location in a converted department store in a shopping center on Old Lebanon Pike.
Currently, about 1,800 people attend the weekend Masses at Sagrado Corazon, said Father Ramirez, and the space where Mass is celebrated, which can seat about 700, typically has standing-room-only crowds.
After the last Mass on Sunday, the altar, ambo, presider’s chair and other items needed to celebrate Mass – which will all be portable – will be stored away and the space will be available for other diocesan events, including non-liturgical uses, such as high school graduations, said William Whalen, chief financial officer of the diocese.
Bishop David Choby has been working with a liturgical design consultant, and crews from Olympian Construction Company have been busy in recent weeks preparing the space for Catholic worship, said Deacon Ron Deal, project development director for the diocese.
“It will look like a Catholic Church with a crucifix, statuary and other elements,” Deacon Deal said.
A new permanent backdrop on the stage has been built, and the space will be designed to reflect a reredos, which was the style typical of Spanish mission churches.
Hispanic Ministry also will move into a suite of offices and classrooms at the same end of the building as the main assembly space, Deacon Deal said.
It will provide much needed space for the growing Hispanic Ministry, Father Ramirez said.
Sagrado Corazon has 500 students in its religious education program. They share classroom and meeting space with sacramental preparation classes, a youth group, a young adult group, Charismatic groups, adult formation classes, choirs and others.
The ministry can’t offer as many retreats and other events as it would like because space is so limited. They currently have 11 classrooms, and they sometimes use the cafeteria for classes, said Anabell Trevino, assistant director of Hispanic ministry.
“The space is very small for the community,” Father Ramirez said. “It’s growing every day.”
At the new Catholic Pastoral Center, Hispanic ministry will have 19 classrooms, she said, which should allow them to provide more services and ministries to the community.
Hispanic Ministry moved into its current space 13 years ago, and it serves people from a wide variety of countries in Central and South America, including Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Honduras, Peru and Ecuador.
The Sagrado Corazon community is made up of people from throughout the Nashville area, from Murfreesboro and Smyrna to Madison and Hendersonville. They are served by three priests, Father Ramirez, Father Renato Mejia and Father Alejandro Godinez, and three Sacred Heart sisters, Sister Maria Bibiana, Sister Ana Maria and Sister Maria de Jesus, all of whom are from the Diocese of Parral in Mexico.
From their base at Sagrado Corazon, they also serve Latino communities in parishes across the diocese, including St. Ignatius, St. Ann and Holy Rosary, all in Nashville, St. Joseph in Madison, St. Rose of Lima in Murfreesboro, St. Philip in Franklin, St. Catherine in Columbia, St. John Vianney in Gallatin, St. Luke in Smyrna, St. William in Shelbyville, Good Shepherd in Decherd, St. Mark in Manchester, and St. Anthony in Fayetteville
Once they move into their new home, they all expect the community to grow.
In its current location, they can be hard to find, Trevino said. When people come for the first time, they are looking for a church rather than an old department store, she said.
“A lot of people get lost on the way here,” Father Ramirez said with a smile.
The new location will be much more visible. “People are very happy, especially because the church is not far from here,” Father Ramirez said. “It’s only a seven minute drive” from the current location.
“The people are happy to get in (to the new space),” said Sister Maria de Jesus. “they are anxious to get in.”
The last liturgy at the site on Old Lebanon Pike will be on Palm Sunday, March 29, and the ministry will move during Holy Week and be ready to celebrate the Easter Vigil Mass.
More offices to move in May
Meanwhile, work on the rest of the new Catholic Pastoral Center will continue in preparation of the relocation of the other diocesan administrative offices and ministries.
The work includes painting walls, repairing doors, and replacing damaged ceiling tiles. The contractor is doing a limited amount of work moving walls and doors to accommodate the needs of the diocesan offices and agencies, Deacon Deal said.
In some cases, large classrooms are being divided into multiple offices, Whalen said.
Chancellor Deacon Hans Toecker has been busy analyzing the technical needs for internet and telecommunications services at the new location, Whalen said. The building will be equipped with fiber optic cables and as many services as possible will be wireless, he added.
Approximately 170 employees will be moved from seven locations to the new Catholic Pastoral Center, Whalen said.
The governance offices of the diocese, including the bishop’s office, the chancery, finance department, tribunal, human resources, engaged couple formation office, catechetical formation, adult faith formation, stewardship and development, the schools office will start moving in earnest in May, Whalen said. The offices will be moved over the weekends by departments in groups of eight to 15 people, he explained, and the current furniture will be used in the new location.
The administrative offices of Catholic Charities of Tennessee will move from its current location on White Bridge Road to the Catholic Pastoral Center, Whalen said. Only administrative offices will move, not the delivery service sites, he said.
And the youth and young adult ministry office, which is now located at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, and the Tennessee Register office will also move.
“The goal is all the moves will be done by the end of June,” Whalen said. “There may be some slippage into July.”
Once the move is complete, the facility will be 90 percent full, Whalen said. “The other 10 percent is for the future.”
“Our use will be essentially the same as the Fellowship,” Deacon Deal said. “It’s worship, it’s religious education, it’s ministry and associated offices.”
Major liturgical events, such as the ordination of priests, and the annual Chrism Mass during Holy Week, will continue to be held at the Cathedral, Whalen said. “This will not become the new Cathedral,” Whalen said the Catholic Pastoral Center.
The diocese plans to sell the current Catholic Center on 21st Avenue South near Hillsboro Village. The proceeds from the sale will be used to offset some of the costs of purchasing the Catholic Pastoral Center.
The diocese is still reviewing offers, Whalen said.
The future of the St. Mary Villa facility, currently housing Catholic Charities’ administrative offices and the diocesan schools office, has not yet been determined, Whalen said. “It will be repurposed. It’s not for sale,” he added.