|St. Anthony Church in Fayetteville broke ground on a new parish social hall on Sunday, June 19. Bishop David Choby was on hand for the ceremonies. The project includes construction of a social hall and 12 classrooms for the parish’s religious education classes.|
For nearly a decade, the parishioners at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Fayetteville have been dreaming of a new parish hall with enough classrooms for its cramped religious education program. After countless fundraising dinners, parish festivals, and a capital campaign, the dream has started to take shape.
On Father’s Day, Sunday, June 19, Bishop David Choby was on hand for the official groundbreaking on a new, more than 10,000 square foot parish hall that will include 12 classrooms, an office, a library, a kitchen, restrooms and significant storage space.
“I think it’s fantastic we can have our father in faith on Father’s Day,” said parishioner Richard Paladino, chairman of the parish’s Planning Board and the capital campaign for the new building.
“It was exciting,” parish Director of Religious Education Patty Wright said of the groundbreaking. “We’ve been talking about this for years. We’ve been raising money for a good couple of years and praying for this campaign to be a success. It all came to be more real” to see dirt being turned.
The parish first began planning for a new hall and education building in 2007.
“We asked the parishioners what they wanted in a new building,” said Paladino, and the answer was a nice social hall, classrooms, a kitchen, storage space, all the things included in the design.
|St. Anthony pastor, Father George Panthananickal, C.M.I., right, and Richard Paladino, chairman of the capital campaign for the building project, are pictured in front of the church. Photo by Andy Telli|
The parish started working on a capital campaign when the Great Recession of 2008 hit. The plans and the campaign were put on hold, Paladino explained.
When Father George Panthananickal, C.M.I., arrived in 2013 as the new pastor, one of the first parishioners he met was Paladino, who wanted to talk about re-starting the capital campaign for the new building.
The parish’s religious education program, which averages about 100 students every year, had long outgrown the space available. Classes were meeting in the living room and kitchen of a yellow house next to the church.
Moveable walls were erected in the current parish hall to create more classroom space. That sometimes caused problems. “Socialization is important for our parish too,” Wright said, but “we kind of have to police the social hall … so the kids can even hear in the classrooms.”
To maximize their space, “we ordered little skinny tables to have more room” in the classrooms, Wright said. “We’ve just tried to maximize our space.”
In November 2013, with approval of the diocese, the parish began a new pledge campaign to raise the money to start construction. The project is expected to cost $1 million and the parish has reached the 80 percent benchmark required by the diocese to move forward.
The campaign has unified the parish, said Father Panthananickal. “Everybody worked on it together. It’s an expression of the faith.”
Parishioners made pledges to the campaign and all the parish organizations, including its growing Hispanic community, hosted fundraisers. The parish also received crucial support from the Diocese of Nashville, the Bishop Miles Foundation, which provides grants to small parishes to finance capital improvement projects, and the Catholic Extension Society, which supports efforts in mission dioceses across the country, Paladino said.
St. Anthony received a total of $270,000 in grants from the agencies, most of that in matching grants that kept the parish energized about the fundraising efforts, Paladino said. “How many spaghetti suppers can you have?”
The parish will borrow $200,000 to cover the remaining cost with eight years to pay off the debt. “We hope to pay it off sooner than that,” Paladino said. “That depends on the economy and other circumstances.”
The new two-story, 90-feet-by-120-feet will have a social hall at its center that can also be used as a gymnasium. The hall will be able to accommodate 280 people seated at tables. In the current hall, “We’re lucky to get 100 in here,” Paladino said. “And if the fire marshal saw it he’d probably fuss.”
Surrounding the hall in the center of the building will be 12 classrooms, an office for the director of religious education, a library, a kitchen, restrooms and significant storage space, Paladino said. Some of the classrooms will have moveable walls that can be removed to combine two classrooms to make a larger meeting room and then converted back to classroom space as needed.
For the groundbreaking, the entire parish was involved. After the parish leadership and Bishop Choby turned a shovel full of dirt, the children in the religious education program did as well, and then all the parishioners were invited to do the same.
“This facility is for the kids, so they should be part of the groundbreaking,” Paladino said. “We’re trying to make sure everybody has a chance to participate.”
The parish has a design-build contract with builder Howard Ridner of Manchester who is working with architect Jerome Headley of Tullahoma, a Catholic, who is working on the design.
Once the detailed plans for the building are complete and approved by the fire marshal, the parish will apply for a building permit from the City of Fayetteville. Paladino hopes the permit will be issued by August. “We hope to be moving dirt in September,” and complete construction on the steel building by February 2017, he said.
“It means a lot” to the parish, Father Panthananickal said of the new building. “We don’t have the facilities … for the whole participation of the people.”
Because the parish’s religious education program has been so cramped, the membership of the parish has been stagnant for several years at 250 families, Paladino said. Several families have gone to other parishes because there was no room in the religious education program for their children, he said.
Once the religious education program has adequate space, parish leaders expect more people to come.
Under Father Panthananickal’s leadership, the youth ministry program has been growing, DRE Wright said. He’s pushed the parish to become more involved in diocesan activities for the high school youths, such as the Youth Leadership Workshop, SEARCH and Break at the Lake, she explained.
The activities for teens has helped boost the teens’ involvement in the parish, Wright said. In the past, the religious education program would lose most students after they were confirmed as eighth graders. The result was essentially no enrollment in the high school classes. “Now, high school is one of our largest classes,” Wright said.
The middle school program has also become more active, Wright said.
A healthy youth ministry will help boost the parish’s overall numbers, Wright said. “When the kids are there, the parents are there. So that will help the numbers for our parish.”