New parish hall blessed at St. Francis of Assisi Church, Allentown

It was a great day March 18 for both the pastor and people of St. Francis of Assisi Church, Allentown, as Msgr. Victor Finelli, pastor, blessed the brand-new parish hall.

Nearly everyone who attended the scheduled 4:30 p.m. Mass journeyed downstairs for the “grand opening” and blessing.

In his homily at Mass Msgr. Finelli thanked primarily the parishioners of the parish for meeting the challenge of raising the funds for the project.

“I’m so thankful for the dedication and commitment of so many of our parishioners who made this needed project come to completion,” said.

“Your commitment to raising the funds only waned in comparison to your excitement and enthusiasm for this project. We all did this together, and I want you to know how proud I am to say that, because of you, we now have a facility to be proud of and that we can use not just for our needs but also as a tool in spreading the mission of the church.”

In addition to thanking the parishioners, Msgr. Finelli also thanked Accutech Construction, Allentown, in particular Mike Wolf, the foreman on the job and partner, and Eric Gruzdis, partner.

“Accutech went well beyond what any of us could imagine was possible for the space, and they did so without hesitation,” said Msgr. Finelli.

“When I first met with Accutech about this project I think they thought I was looking for just a simple paint job, but as you will see, the painting of the room was the easy part.”

Msgr. Finelli also thanked Liv Interiors and partners Alison Flynn and Christy Zuk.

“A project this big and this vast needed the expertise of professionals who are accustomed to such things. Liv Interiors offered me great help and advice throughout this whole project,” he said.

He also thanked the permanent deacon of the parish, Deacon Robert Young, and his wife Joanne, owners of Bethlehem Gallery of Floors, for their assistance in the project; and Vince Presto, owner of Stokes Electric, Easton, whom Monsignor had known before entering the seminary.

“As a parish, we owe all these people a great deal of thanks. Because of them and their generosity of both time and treasure, we have a beautiful hall,” said Monsignor.

After the blessing those who attended enjoyed a reception complete with hors d’oeuvres.

The parishioners were amazed at the transformation from a generic hall/gymnasium to a finely appointed reception/meeting space.

The space was previously used as a gymnasium for the parish school before it closed, as well as various CYO activities, including basketball.

In addition to being the gym, the former hall also was the social gathering space for the parish and the location of its monthly parish breakfast.

As the parish has aged over the years the need for a gymnasium didn’t seem warranted anymore. When Msgr. Finelli spoke to the parishioners about the project in August 2016 not a single person objected to his vision for the space.

As a result, the room was completely gutted and everything new installed: LED ceiling lights and chandeliers, ceiling, flooring, cherry wrapped columns, window cornices and sheers, stage flooring and curtain, state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment with an automated screen, bar equipment, and a nearly 25-foot folding wall to divide the room in half.

In addition, 300 custom upholstered chairs and banquet tables were purchased. Two new storage rooms were also built, along with a partition space to block the view of the kitchen.

The festivities didn’t stop on Saturday, for on Sunday the parish held a complimentary continental breakfast after the 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. Masses.

Again, nearly everyone who attended Mass went downstairs for the “grand opening.”

The parishioners were astonished at the transformation. Comments included “This is amazing,” “I’m in shock” and “I can’t believe this.”

A video of the nearly six-month-long effort was shown at all the events so the people could see the before and after.

“We can look at this hall as just four walls, or we can look at it as a tool to build our community of faith and to continue to bring us together as a parish,” Msgr. Finelli told the parish.

“This weekend is a time for us to celebrate what we have done together and to look forward to all the great things God has in store for us in the future.”