Joy, resolve at groundbreaking for new Family Resources Center

Photo Caption: Bishop Jenky is joined by Jan Smith, founder and director of the Family Resources Center, and other dignitaries at groundbreaking ceremonies for the new center on July 26.

By: By Jennifer Willems

Central Illinois’ parched earth may not be good for corn this summer, but it is expected to yield a bumper crop of blessings as work begins on the new Family Resources Center in downtown Peoria.

“The work we are beginning today should enliven our faith and strengthen us in spreading the Gospel of Life,” said Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, as he prepared to bless and break ground for the project on July 26.

“Whenever we look to the needs of the community and our neighbors we are, in a sense, God’s co-workers. Let us pray for his help . . . that God will bring this construction to successful completion and that his protection will keep those who work on it safe from injury.”

Among those turning dirt was Mayor Jim Ardis of Peoria, who said the new facility would be good for the city.

“A lot of challenges that we face in our city and in other cities, when you trace the root causes, you can take them all the way back to the family structure is broken,” he told the 100 people gathered under and around a tent at the construction site at 409-413 N.E. Monroe St., directly across from the Spalding Pastoral Center.

“At this time in our world, especially in our country, in the Catholic Church, we should be very proud that we have a structure like this that stands up for strong families,” Ardis said. “We appreciate having this facility down here and the city is only going to be stronger because of it.”

Also taking their turn with a shovel were Jan Smith, founding director of the Family Resources Center, and her husband, Pete; Father Bill Miller, IC, director of the Diocesan Respect Life Board; Allan and Vicki Waldschmidt, longtime volunteers who represented the Family Resources Center Board; Sister Ana Pia Cordua, SCTJM, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria; and Father John Verrier, spiritual adviser to the Christ Child Society of Central Illinois, which will be housed in the new center.

Offering words of support and congratulations was Msgr. Paul Showalter, vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria.

Deacon Bob Sondag, master of ceremonies for the groundbreaking, also acknowledged State Sen. Darin LaHood of Peoria, who represents the 37th District.

Noting that the Family Resources Center has been in existence for more than 30 years, Deacon Sondag said, “It takes a lot of energy, it takes a lot of people over that time period to really watch a ministry evolve, to watch a ministry like the Family Resources Center do what it has done for the needy, what it has done for the church. We’re excited about being at this stage in their existence.”

Always soft-spoken and usually one to avoid the spotlight, Jan Smith nevertheless added her quiet thanks for the generosity of the people who have supported the pro-life ministry over the years.

“Our new center will continue our work of defending the tiny unborn persons in the womb, aid pregnant, distressed mothers, further educational efforts to promote respect for God’s precious gift of human life, and build happy and holy families,” she said. “But it will also give us the exciting opportunity to expand and offer many new educational efforts.

“Hopefully, and prayerfully, the center will help to make the world one that Jesus meant it to be, where all, born and unborn, may live life to the fullest,” she told those assembled.

Despite “decades of a relentless media onslaught against life — the Gospel of Life,” Bishop Jenky said he was not discouraged.

“This center embodies the commitment of our community to stand up for life,” he said. “This is a day of great blessing.”

“I am confident that before these old eyes close, we might see a time again where every human being in our country is protected from conception until natural death,” Bishop Jenky said.

“For me, this has been a great confirmation — never underestimate what God can accomplish, even in difficult times, and how he will use the quiet generosity of dedicated souls to do something great,” Father Miller told
The Catholic Post at the reception that followed in the Spalding Pastoral Center.

Work on the new facility should start by the end of August, according to Deacon Sondag and Andrew Hagemann, director of property and risk management for the Diocese of Peoria. Bid packages were sent out before
the groundbreaking and reviewed after the festivities, but no bids have been awarded yet.

“It will probably take another week or two to further clarify the scope,” Deacon Sondag said. “Because it is a design/build project, we have to discern that the bids actually have the content that we need.”

Taking the lead on the design has been Scott Fairfield, vice president of River City Design Group. The parent company, River City Construction, will do the building.

“As usual, the goal is to get as much of the center enclosed before it gets cold so they can do all the inside work during the winter,” Hagemann said.
Completion of the 14,000-square-foot building is anticipated next spring.

Construction of the new Family Resources Center was made possible by a financial gift from “a devout couple” that wishes to remain anonymous. Funds are still needed to finish the project, however, especially the children’s and devotional areas.

For more information, contact Bill Engelbrecht, diocesan director of advancement, at (309) 671-1550.

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
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