By TARA CONNOLLY Staff writer
A dream that arose more than 20 years ago at Holy Family, Nazareth inched closer to reality Oct. 8 as the parish broke ground, clearing the way for a $3 million parish center.
Terry Dunne, member of the capital campaign committee, kicked off the ceremony with more than 100 parishioners in front of the parish school and adjacent to the future site of the parish center.
“We are here to build something to make our fellowship stronger,” said Dunne.
Father Joseph Tobias, pastor, led the faithful in Opening Prayer that asked for God’s blessing on the two-story center that will ultimately benefit and enhance the faith of thousands and thousands of parishioners.
The 19,000-square-foot center, made possible through the parish’s capital campaign “A New Day Begins,” will be handicap-accessible and feature a glass-enclosed atrium with accesses to an elevator. The lobby will include a coffee bar for small gatherings.
A 244-seat banquet hall on the first floor with a full-service kitchen can be subdivided for functions such as funeral luncheons. The first floor will also include a parish meeting room, a coat room and restrooms.
The second floor will have a cafeteria to serve the parish school students, a warming kitchen and several meeting rooms to be used by more than 25 parish organizations.
Ed Perusse, chairman of the Building Committee, said the project, which originally called to transform the old church building into the parish center, was a huge undertaking.
“This project has been in the works for many years and with many pastors. One thing that was consistent was the need for and importance of a parish center. The old church could not be repurposed, and that set the stage for our grand vision,” he said.
Also part of the vision was memorializing Jessica Mariano, 31, a parishioner who tragically lost her life in a car accident last year.
After her parents, Bruce and Jodi Mariano, sought counseling through Father Tobias they were inspired to join the capital campaign and support the new parish center.
“Her death is a profound loss. Father Tobias advised us to channel our grief by doing something that can impact others,” said Mariano.
“To memorialize Jessica we got involved with other parishioners – just like our ancestors did when they built the original church. We have many months to go and much to do. We still need your help.”
The building was designed by the architecture firm W2A Design Group, Allentown. Bracy Contracting Inc., Allentown will handle the construction.
The new parish center is slated to be completed by August 2018.
The parish was established in 1908 with Father Peter Fuengerlings, a member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC), who oversaw the construction of the church structure that housed the parish school on the second floor. Soon after his arrival, the parish encountered hardships and he requested an early transfer.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia contemplated auctioning off the property until the arrival of Father Bernard Greifenberg, who set out to sustain and expand the parish.
The church had its first major expansion in 1954, when the school moved to a new building across the street. A large gymnasium was added next to the school in 1956.
In 1963 Holy Family broke ground on the building that would house its new 900-seat sanctuary. The new building doubled the size of the former 450-seat sanctuary in support of expected growth in the congregation.
A mausoleum was constructed on the grounds of the upper cemetery in 1982 and four new classrooms were added to the school. By 1991 the school had a second addition added to its second story to accommodate growth.
In 2014 a storage building also was constructed a block up from the Holy Family Catholic School. The original 1908 church, which was used for social gatherings was razed to make way for the site of the parish center.