By TARA CONNOLLY Staff writer
After embarking on a capital campaign in 2015 to fulfill the dream of a Family Life Center, St. Benedict, Mohnton saw that dream become a reality on Dec. 3.
The $2.2 million expansion – which features three office suites, four classrooms, a board room, a janitor room, a storage room, an industrial kitchen and a parish hall that seats 250 – was blessed by Bishop of Allentown Alfred Schlert.
Bishop Schlert celebrated Mass, which also marked the beginning of the Advent season, before blessing and dedicating the new center.
“It’s a blessing to be here to celebrate such a great accomplishment. The new center is a sign of vibrancy,” he said during his homily.
Bishop Schlert also called the attention of the faithful to Advent and said it is a season that calls them “to be ready to watch” and to joyfully await the coming of the Lord.
He related Advent to the empty throne in the center of the arch inside the papal basilica of St. Mary Major.
“It’s empty to remind us that Jesus left his throne in heaven to live among us. It’s empty for the future event when Jesus will come down in glory to judge the world. Advent is a season to grow in holiness that is characterized by joyful hope,” said Bishop Schlert.
After the blessing of the center, Bishop Schlert and Father Philip Rodgers, pastor, joined an estimated 250 parishioners for a celebratory brunch.
“A project on this scale is only possible with the prayerful and financial support of the parishioners,” said Father Rodgers.
“I am most grateful for the dedication of the men and women on the building committee that made the process go smoothly. This endeavor was only possible because of the dedication and sacrificial offerings of the parishioners of St. Benedict.”
He also said the vision of a community center to serve the needs of a growing parish and a hall to serve the needs of the local community was evident, as the center has been already used for a fundraising event, a wedding reception, a ministry fair, the parish Christmas bazaar and Sunday morning hospitality.
The parish dates back to 1952 when the Benedictine Fathers of St. Benedict Abbey, Benet Lake, Wisconsin established a monastery that seated 35 faithful. Three years later the Archdiocese of Philadelphia established St. Benedict Parish and entrusted its care to the Benedictine Fathers.
In August 1972 the parish was suppressed after the Benedictine Fathers retired and returned to Wisconsin. It later operated as a mission in November 1972 directed by Father David Soderland, with Masses celebrated at Robeson Lutheran Church, Plowville until a new church was built.
St. Benedict was re-established by the Diocese of Allentown Jan. 1, 1974. The first Mass in the new church structure was celebrated Nov. 9, 1975.
The parish quickly grew and expansions were performed under Father Dennis Hartgen and Father Albert Byrne, before Father Rodgers directed its largest expansion.
“Nowhere have I experienced such parishioners filled with the Spirit of God and willing to work so creatively together for the good of the church, and building up of the Kingdom of God,” said Father Rodgers.