New Geneseo parish center blessed; enhances school, too

By: By Tom Dermody

GENESEO — With prayers of gratitude, songs of joy, tours, and plenty of home cooking, members of St. Malachy’s Parish here celebrated the dedication and blessing of a new parish center last Friday.

“May all who come here know the presence of Christ, experience the joy of his friendship, and grow in his love,” said Father James Pallardy, vicar of the Henry-Kewanee vicariate, before sprinkling holy water in every room of the 20,000-square-foot expansion serving both the parish and school.

The $3 million project gives this faith community of more than 1,000 families spaces large and small to gather for meetings, fellowship, education and recreation. And following a prayer service in the church, nearly all of the room afforded by the project’s major feature — a new St. Malachy’s community hall that will also house school sporting activities — was filled with hundreds of participants enjoying a potluck dinner.

“Lots and lots of people did lots of things” to make this latest phase of the parish’s complex on the northern edge of Geneseo a reality, said Father Michael Pakula, pastor. St. Malachy’s, founded in 1866, moved to a 12-acre site on the town’s growing northern edge with the dedication of a new church and school in 1989.

To make the expansion possible, parishioners pledged not only their treasures — covering the cost with pledges to be paid over a 5-year period — but their time and their talents. Nearly 30 different committees had roles ranging from interior design to technology to facility use.

Ground was broken last May, with Russell Construction of Davenport, Iowa, as designers and builders.

In addition to the community hall, the parish center also includes:
— A new, secure entrance for St. Malachy’s School, as well as new school offices, a music room, and an art and science room.
— New parish offices, including for the pastor, business manager, parish nurse, and director of religious education.
— Conference rooms for smaller group meetings
— Large, modern kitchen facilities capable of serving parish and school needs simultaneously.
— Spacious storage facilities centrally located between the school, church, and community hall.

“This is a very active and good parish,” said Father Pakula, who said the new facility will enhance the parish and school’s mission for years to come in ways that still may not be imagined. He especially credited Leo Castelein, administrative director, and Gregg Swanson, maintenance supervisor, for their efforts in spearheading the project.

Castelein told The Catholic Post that in addition to the new construction, the project also encompasses enhancements of existing space. The school classrooms, for example, got new white boards and computers. Old parish offices and meeting rooms are being renovated to serve youth ministry and child care needs, as well as establish an adult library.

Stan Griffin, principal of St. Malachy’s School, said students watched the progress of the building with great excitement last year and were invited by the builders to take part in ceremonies such as the raising of the final beam, which all students signed.

“We’ve never had a gym or a lunch room,” he said. “Now we have an outstanding gym and a lunch room to boot.”

The celebration at the parish continued on Saturday with the first “Faithful Feet” charity run and walk, organized by St. Malachy’s faith, fellowship and service group. Proceeds will benefit the Geneseo food pantry.

In a homily during Friday’s prayer service, Father Pallardy congratulated the parish on their “beautiful building” and said the effort “signifies love for God, your parish, and one another.” He also led sustained applause acknowledging the leadership of Father Pakula in making the dream a reality.

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