DECATUR — After nearly a decade of planning and hard work, parishioners of St. Mary of the Assumption, Decatur, welcomed Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades to bless their beautiful new parish center after the 11 a.m. Mass on Aug. 19.
The dream, which began in 2003, finally became a reality and the new doors were open and ready to welcome all who entered much to the joy of the new hall coordinator, Sue Downing.
“We have been waiting a long time for this day,” Downing explained.
Countless others involved in the long-range planning and Chairman of the Building On Our Heritage Capital Campaign Tony Isch were very satisfied and agreed, “It has been a long time coming.”
Downing praised the efforts of all the parishioners who handled the many aspects of the entire project — from the plumbing and electrical, to the heating and air, woodworking and especially Tom and Ron Darling of Darling Construction who served as general contractor for the project.
“They went above and beyond every step of the way,” Downing said. The twins graduated from the school in 1973 but were in “Katrina-land” for over a two-year period during which the gymnasium was being constructed.
Tom Darling detailed the hall transformation: “It has been fun. It was the worst location but yet the best location. It was like opening a can of worms trying to fit something between the two existing buildings. Every utility possible, the sewer system and the old boiler system all ran directly across the soil intended for the new hall. But the spot made the most sense.”
Now one can travel from the school to the convent through the parish hall to the church to the rectory without ever going outside. The amazing addition connected the Catholic complex located in the heart of downtown Decatur.
In 2004, under the direction of Father Phil DeVolder, St. Mary challenged their faithful with two extra goals during the Legacy of Faith capital campaign. The first was a new gymnasium, which was completed in 2009, and the second was the parish hall.
The 6,000 square foot new space houses handicap accessible restrooms, a bookstore, SCRIP office, meeting room, chapel area and a state-of-the-art kitchen.
“In just the past few weeks, we have already hosted a graduation party, bridal shower, Baptism and funeral viewing and dinner,” said an elated Downing.
But the biggest celebration to date, the first time many of the members of St. Mary filled the gathering area was for the blessing and dedication ceremony with special guest, Bishop Rhoades.
“It is amazing,” said life-long member Pete Braun. “It is truly a beautiful gift. I love it,” “Father Phil (DeVolder) got us started, handed the torch to Father Dave (Voors), who gave us the green light and took us to the finish line,” Braun summarized.
Current pastor, Father Dave Voors, came on board with the process underway.
When asked how he kept the ball rolling for so many years, Father Voors insisted, “The ball kept rolling on its own.”
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades commended the vibrant 1,300 families of St. Mary’s for their sacrifices and their generosity to make possible a new building that will serve the holy mission of the Church, a place where parishioners will gather for many years to come. He reminded them that they were heirs to a deep and generous faith much like those who went before them and built the first St. Mary’s Church in 1846.
Their ancestors may have been poor German immigrants but they were rich in their Catholic faith.
“Though the Eucharistic mystery surpasses our human understanding, we believe Jesus becomes truly and substantially present on the altar at every celebration of Mass because Jesus does not deceive,” Bishop Rhoades said. “He teaches the truth. He is the truth!”
Bishop Rhoades continued, “It is a great joy to be with you as we hear the wonderful, central and key passage from Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse in John’s Gospel. It reminds us of our Eucharistic identity. The life of the parish and our individual and family lives, our life of faith, is centered around the Holy Eucharist. Jesus’ gift of Himself for the life of the world.”
Bishop Rhoades continued with three challenges, “I encourage you to be devoted to the Blessed Sacrament, to be engaged in Sunday Mass and to reach out to our brothers and sisters who no longer come to receive Jesus, the Bread of Life, at Mass.”
He concluded, “As we approach the Year of Faith (beginning Oct. 11), let us be mindful of our call to be missionaries in today’s culture. A truly vibrant parish is an evangelizing parish. Nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord, we are strengthened to glorify Him by our lives. Eucharistic lives, witnessing to Christ through self-giving, sacrificial love. At Mass, we truly taste and see the goodness of the Lord. May we bring His goodness to others and to our world that is so hungry for God!”
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