By Chris Lushis
GRANGER — Hundreds of parishioners and friends of St. Pius X Parish, Granger, gathered on April 19 to witness the blessing and groundbreaking for the site of their new church, led by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.
“Jesus is alive in His Church, as we are the living stones of His body,” Bishop Rhoades said in his homily during the ceremony. “He is the cornerstone. He is the reason you made all these sacrifices. And He is the reason for this holy endeavor. This church, which will stand as one of the most beautiful in our diocese, is offered for the glory of God, to lift up the minds and hearts of generations to come. It will serve as a sacred place, a house of prayer and a spiritual home open to all.”
After the homily, the crowd processed outside, braving the rain and lining the perimeter of the new church as Bishop Rhoades blessed the foundation with holy water and invoked God’s protection upon the site. Additionally, he consecrated the sites of the church’s future altar and tabernacle. He also blessed the cornerstone of the new building, recalling Peter’s words in the Acts of the Apostles pointing to Christ, the one originally rejected, as the now everlasting cornerstone of the Church. He prayed for lasting unity among believers and for the spiritual nourishment of all those who will labor on the project and come to worship there in faith.
To conclude the event, Bishop Rhoades, clergy members, project leaders, parish staff and representatives, campaign chairs, and members of the building and liturgy committees took turns ceremonially breaking ground to officially commence the project.
Celebrating the event with Bishop Rhoades was Msgr. William C. Schooler, St. Pius X pastor; Father Terry Coonan, parochial vicar; Holy Cross Father Tom Jones, former pastor; and Holy Cross Father Bill Neidhart and Father Daniel Scheidt, both former associate pastors.
Msgr. Schooler elaborated further on the importance and necessity of constructing a new house of God for the parish community. “The groundbreaking for the new church is a significant step in our major facilities project to renovate and expand St. Pius X,” he said. “It is through the prayer and generosity of parishioners and friends that the campaign continues to be such a success. Generations of St. Pius parishioners will benefit from larger facilities, which will provide ample space for worship and education, as well as for outreach and community building. Present and future parishioners will enjoy an enriched faith life because of the foresight and investment of our congregation.”
Betsy Quinn, the director of evangelization and stewardship, further commented on the current needs of the parish community. “While the present church was built in 1992 to accommodate 1,400 families, St. Pius X now serves more than 3,100 families. The new church will comfortably seat over 1,300 people, nearly doubling the size of the current church. This will allow more parishioners to attend Mass together on a weekly basis. It is projected to be completed in the fall of 2016. The current church will be renovated to include a baptistry, a gathering area, a parish library and meeting rooms. The next phase of the project will include the expansion of the Parish Education Center, including a preschool wing, additional classroom space for the school and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd religious education program, additional restrooms, and a multi-purpose gathering area.”
The design of the new church, which can be found on the parish’s capital campaign webpage, reveals plans to follow a Romanesque architectural model with a cruciform style, a bell tower, choir loft, and centralized tabernacle, which will be open 24 hours for prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
Scott Cramer, a St. Pius X parishioner and assistant with the Rekindle the Fire conferences, expressed his excitement to experience liturgies in the new church building. Cramer said, “Because we have such large number of parishioners for the space available, we currently offer Mass at seven different times on the weekend, including in the school gym. This makes it hard for many people to gain sufficient familiarity with others in the parish. The new church will allow for more people to interact at the same time while also providing a deeper sense of holiness and transcendence upon entering because of the centralized focus on the Eucharist and the traditional style sacred architecture.”
Father Terry Coonan also revealed what excites him most about the new church, stating, “the increased focus on sacred art will help many people in their prayer at Holy Mass. When your eyes are wandering and you see something, which elevates your mind and heart, it brings you back and draws you more deeply into the faith. It reconnects you to the altar and to the presence of Christ in your midst.”
Additionally, Father Dan Scheidt shared his thoughts on the new endeavor, and said, “It was overwhelming to be in the sanctuary where I first celebrated Mass as a priest and to think that sanctuary will be the narthex of an even greater, larger church. There I was thinking that the church is like an archeological dig in which each layer is actually alive and the church grows like the body grows. It becomes more differentiated and the generations who form its family multiply.”
Tom Pratt, who with his wife and children have been parishioners at St. Pius X for nearly seven years, further elaborated on the joy of belonging to such an engaging community of faith.
“Since finding St. Pius X, it has been the best and most vibrant parish I have ever been associated with in my life,” Pratt said. “It is exciting to be growing, and in a sense it is an investment in goodness. Many will benefit because of this future growth. To further participate in this holy work, we will continue to offer our support for the mission of the church and the community through our prayers.”
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