Our Lady of the Lake Church blessed and dedicated its new 35,000-square-foot addition on Monday, Aug. 15, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The addition includes the new St. Joseph Hall, a full kitchen, 15 classrooms, and a room for youth ministry. Parishioners line up for food during the reception. Photos by Andy Telli
Father Eric Fowlkes, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville, looked to the congregation at the conclusion of Mass on Monday, Aug. 15, the Feast of the Assumption, and told them, “Tonight is a historic night for our parish, thanks to you.”
At the end of the Mass, he led the people in a procession from the church sanctuary through the parking lot to the portico entrance of the parish’s brand new St. Joseph Hall, where Father Fowlkes cut the ribbon on a 35,000-square-foot expansion to Our Lady of the Lake’s facilities, nearly doubling it.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the parish for this project,” said Bishop David Choby, who was on hand for the dedication and blessing of the new expansion. “The facility will respond in so many ways to the needs you have as a parish.”
“It was a conclusion to a project that I hope everybody enjoys,” said parishioner Roark Summerford, a member of the parish’s building committee and the parish’s representative working with the architects from HFR Design and the general contractor, Carter Group LLC. “We tried to include things for literally everybody in the church.”
The centerpiece of the nearly $9 million expansion is the new St. Joseph Hall, a 9,260-square-foot multipurpose space with a full-service commercial kitchen that will be able to accommodate large meetings, banquets, wedding receptions, and basketball games.
Pastor Father Eric Fowlkes, accompanied by, from left, Bishop David Choby, Hendersonville Mayor Scott Foster, Father Tomy Joseph, M.S.F.S., Deacon Mike Rector, and Father Thomas Kalam, CMI, cuts the ribbon to the new St. Joseph Hall.
Before the completion of St. Joseph Hall, “we had no place to meet as a parish family,” said Therese Casler, chairperson of the parish building committee.
While the old social hall can seat 250 people, St. Joseph Hall, which can accommodate 600 people at tables and 1,200 seated in chairs without tables, is the largest meeting space of its type in Sumner County.
“The challenge was it could not look like a gym,” Summerford said. “It had to pass as a nice social hall … but it also had to accommodate itself to be used as a basketball court.” The answer was to use portable goals that can be wheeled into place and to design the pattern of the epoxy floor as “a well-disguised basketball court,” Summerford said.
“I think it’s going to be very positive for the parish,” Summerford said. “With the old social hall we’ll turn it back into a really nice room. For events for 150 or less, that’s a much nicer room to have.”
With social halls of different sizes, the parish will have more flexibility in accommodating different kinds of events, Summerford explained.
The expansion also includes 15 new classrooms/meeting rooms, bringing the total to 26, as well as space for the parish’s youth ministry, storage space, and a much needed 270 additional parking spaces and improved traffic flow through the parking lot.
“That was a big challenge,” Casler said. Before the expansion of the parking lot, “we have seen people drive through the parking lot and leave when they couldn’t find a parking space,” she said.
Since the parish moved into its current church building on Stop Thirty Road in 1999, the number of registered families has grown from 1,000 to more than 2,600.
“We knew we had to (expand) practically when we moved in here,” Casler said.
The previous pastor, the late Msgr. William Bevington, wanted the parish to pay off its debt before expanding the facility, Casler said. That milestone was reached in 2009, a year after Father Fowlkes came to Our Lady of the Lake as the pastor.
Parish leaders interviewed the staff and ministries about their needs, she said. They also consulted with other parishes that had expanded their facilities, Casler said.
In coming up with a floor plan and design, Summerford said, the building committee tried to incorporate as many ideas from parishioners as it could, “to give everybody something they could say is theirs.”
The expansion was completed in June and its impact is already being felt, Casler said. “It’s enhancing and encouraging more of the endless ministries we’ve begun here.”
As the parish has grown, so has the religious education program, Casler noted. The additional classrooms will provide more space for the children’s religious education program and for adult education and formation and the RCIA program – “the whole family,” Casler said.
“All the programs that we have can be expanded and they’re not fighting over the same space,” Summerford said. “Now there’s plenty of room.”
The designated space for youth ministry also will be a big help, Summerford said. “We’ve always sort of struggled with our youth groups with competition from other churches. We never had the facilities that they have,” he explained. “This lets our program start to compete with theirs.”
The expansion was designed to match that of the existing facility, Summerford said. The St. Joseph Hall has a tall clerestory just like the church, he noted, and the colors used on the exterior of the building are the same.
And as is the case in the church, many of the design elements in the patterns of the floor are symbols with a religious meaning, Summerford said. “It’s very subtle.”
On the floor in front of the elevator, he explained, is a pattern with three squares representing the Trinity surrounded by 12 red squares representing the Apostles, all surrounded by rings of red, symbolizing sacrifice, and white, for love.
The benefits of the expansion will be felt as the Hendersonville area continues to grow, Summerford said. “They are building 5,000 homes within a three-and-a-half mile radius of the church,” he said.
Summerford enjoyed watching about 800 people gathered in the new St. Joseph Hall during a reception following the dedication and blessing. “To finally have a hall that is large enough to have parishioners come and have a good time, this is a big plus.”