LEBANON – St. Frances Cabrini parish’s new church has been a long time coming. For more than a decade, parishioners have been planning, saving and holding fundraisers large and small. There have been some false starts along the way.
|Members of the council for the Hispanic community at St. Frances Cabrini Church in Lebanon turn shovels of dirt during the groundbreaking ceremonies for a new church building as pastor Father Michael O’Bryan, far left, and Bishop David Choby look on. The growth of the Hispanic community is contributing to the growth of the parish, which is expected to continue as the surrounding area keeps growing. Photos by Andy Telli
But on Sunday, Aug. 16, parishioners gathered on the lawn of the church on South Tarver Street in Lebanon to celebrate the ground-breaking for a new church.
“I’ve been working on this with the committee probably 15 years,” said Buddy Trouy, a member of the parish’s building committee. “We’ve seen a couple of attempts that didn’t make it. This one is a go.”
“It was the fulfillment of a dream that they have long held,” said Father Michael O’Bryan, who is in his seventh year as pastor of St. Frances Cabrini.
Bishop David Choby was on hand for the ground-breaking ceremony and read a blessing. The people of the parish then took turns turning a shovel of dirt, including the Building Fund Committee, the Parish Council, the council for the parish’s Hispanic community, the Finance Committee, the nearly 300 children in the parish’s religious education program, and finally any other parishioner who wanted to grab a shovel.
“It’s been such a challenge but these people are so dedicated and so committed,” said Lisa Cunningham, chair of the Parish Council.
“The church is bursting at the seams,” Cunningham said. The surrounding community is growing and more and more young families are joining the parish, she said. “That’s great to see. It’s a family church and that’s what you want to see.”
The current church was dedicated in 1953 and seats between 200 and 250 people. The new nearly 10,000-square-foot church will come close to doubling the seating capacity to between 450 and 475, said Father O’Bryan.
The new church, which will be built on the current parking lot, also will have a vestibule area for people to gather before and after Mass, Father O’Bryan said.
The new church was designed by architect Marion Fowlkes of Centric Architecture in Nashville and the general contractor will be the Carter Group of Nashville. Both have worked on projects in the diocese before; Centric Architecture designed the expansion and renovation of the Motherhouse for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia and the Carter Group did the renovation of the Cathedral of the Incarnation and is currently building a church for the Church of the Nativity in Spring Hill ,and an expansion for Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville.
|Parishoner Denise Smith, left, Deacon Jim Dixon and other parishioners of St. Frances Cabrini, pray during a blessing read by Bishop David Choby as part of the groundbreaking ceremonies for the new church building.
St. Frances Cabrini is awaiting the final construction permits from the City of Lebanon. “I look forward to truly breaking ground within 30 days,” Father O’Bryan said.
Construction is expected to take about six months, Father O’Bryan said. “If we get there by Easter time it should be a blessing.” If the church is not finished by Easter, it should be dedicated by late spring or early summer, he said. “Then we’ll have another big celebration.”
The new church will cost $3 million. The parish has about $1.5 million in savings and received pledges for another $600,000 from its “Faith in Our Future” capital campaign. Almost $460,000 of the pledges have already been collected, Father O’Bryan said. The parish will borrow about $1 million through the diocese, he said.
This latest effort to build a new church “took three years of hard work,” Father O’Bryan said.
The parish started with a demographic study of the area and its growth. The parish considered building on another site and buying an existing church and renovating it, Father O’Bryan said. In the end, the parish decided to build on its current site of 6¾ acres.
“Sentimentally and financially, it made sense for us,” Father O’Bryan said.
The parish is growing. “It’s following a lot of the growth that we’re experiencing in Middle Tennessee,” Father O’Bryan said. “We, like a lot of other folks, are seeing a push this way.”
When it was dedicated in 1953, the parish had 24 families receiving collection envelopes, Father O’Bryan said. Today, it has 511 registered families comprised of about 1,300 individuals. “That doesn’t include the walk-ins or undocumented Hispanics,” he said.
The Hispanic community at St. Frances Cabrini is growing. “We are so blessed this community is open to our culture,” said Maria Hernandez, a member of both the Parish Council and the council for the parish’s Hispanic community. “We feel a safe environment here.”
|Nancy Garcia, Ken Condit, and Jenny Bennett serve free ice cream to parishioners after the groundbreaking.
“The Hispanic group has been great with fundraisers,” said Theresa Wiggington, a member of both the Parish Council and the Building Fund Committee. “Especially with the Hispanic community growing, we really need more space.”
Like the Hispanic community, all of the groups in the parish contributed to the effort, Wiggington noted, including the Altar Society and the Knights of Columbus. Parishioners were generous with their time and effort on a variety of fund-raisers, including the pledge drive, chili suppers and the parishe’s Palooza festival and Touch a Truck, which will be held again this year on Saturday, Sept. 12, at the Wilson County Fairgrounds.
“People really saw there was a need” for the project. Wiggington said. “The parish is growing.” It is about four times bigger than when her family joined the parish in 1991, she noted.
With the expected growth, Father O’Bryan said. “We’ve got just a unique opportunity here to engage folk.”
Nikki Gann, the parish secretary and a member of the Building Fund Committee, has seen the growth of the parish throughout her life. She grew up in the parish. “I’ve been here going on 42 years, and now I’m raising my kids here,” Gann said of her three daughters.
“We’ve grown drastically over the years,” Gann said.
“This is the first step,” Gann said of the new church.
Eventually, the parish would like to convert the existing church into a parish hall, and as the religious education program continues to grow, more classroom space will be needed in the future, Father O’Bryan said.
But for now, the parish is focused on building the new church.
The expansion comes in the 100th year of Catholicism in Wilson County, Father O’Bryan noted.
The first Mass to be celebrataed in Lebanon was in 1915 by Father John Cunningham in the home of John J. Martin Sr. on West Spring Street. Father Samuel Stritch, who later became Cardinal Stritch, the Archbishop of Chicago, celebrated Mass at the Martin home several times in 1922.
In 1930, Father Harold DesChamps would travel from the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville to celebrate Mass regularly at various locations, including Seagraves Funeral Home, the chapel at Cumberland University and Castle Heights Military Academy. After World War II, the community celebrated Mass in the Castle Heights library.
In 1951, Msgr. George Rohling received permission from Bishop William Adrian to find property for a new church. That church was dedicated on April 19, 1953, and has been home to the parish ever since.
Father O’Bryan said he is proud of the parish for its efforts to build a new church. “It’s a great group of people.”
Slideshow to come!