New Family Resources Center dedicated and “dream” expands
By: By Jennifer Willems
(Editor’s note: Additional photos from the dedication ceremonies have been posted on The Catholic Post’s Facebook site.)
With full hearts, words of thanks and a generous sprinkling of holy water, the new Family Resources Center in Peoria was blessed and dedicated by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, on Oct. 23.
“Make this place a house of blessing and a center of love, where all people may experience the transformative power of the Gospel of Life,” he prayed, asking that God would “grant that all who enter here may grow in their respect for all human life and joyfully give witness to all the world.”
Bishop Jenky said it was his “dream and hope” that the 14,000-square-foot facility would be “a teaching tool.”
“I hope people visiting our cathedral, visiting our pastoral center, all the people coming in and out of our offices, those preparing for marriage, religious education programs, our high schools and grammar schools, that this facility will be a part of their visit to the heart of Peoria,” he said. “I want to see all of them touched by the good work this building will assist us in.”
The new Family Resources Center, located at 415 N.E. Monroe St., joins the “Catholic campus” envisioned by Bishop Jenky that includes the Spalding Pastoral Center and Spalding Renewal Center, which sit across the street, and nearby St. Mary’s Cathedral.
All of the respect life ministries of the Diocese of Peoria, under the umbrella of Catholic Charities, now have a home at the Family Resources Center. Among them is the Christ Child Society of Central Illinois, which has a workroom in the lower level of the building.
The 30,000 audiovisuals, fetal models, books and other resources from the former Family Resources Center in downtown Peoria have been brought to the new facility and fill bookcases on the main floor. There is a cozy children’s area that has books just for them and a table at which to read, and a devotional area with statues of St. Joseph and Our Lady of Guadalupe just inside the front door.
In addition there are offices for Jan Smith, the founding director of the Family Resources Center, and Catholic Charities personnel, as well as conference rooms and a break room with table and chairs for staff.
The lower level features a large multipurpose room, where guests gathered for the blessing and dedication ceremony.
Among the guests was W. Eric Turner, a member of the Peoria City Council who acted as mayor pro-tem while Mayor Jim Ardis was in Africa exploring a new sister-city relationship with Jwaneng, Botswana. He praised Bishop Jenky and the Diocese of Peoria for improvements made to the area and called the Family Resources Center “the key prevention strategy for addressing many of the challenges that face families regardless of where they live in our community.”
“This facility will help improve the outcomes for both families and communities as you bring together services and activities that educate, develop skills and promote moving in a new direction for families,” Turner said.
Also giving thanks was Deacon Bob Sondag, one of the vice chancellors of the Diocese of Peoria, who recognized Bernard Koch, president of River City Construction, and Scot E. Fairfield, vice president of the River City design group, for their work. His list included Andrew Hagemann, director of property and risk management for the Diocese of Peoria, and John Gibson, director of the diocesan Office of Development and Stewardship, and his staff.
Special recognition was given to Jan and Pete Smith for promoting the Gospel of Life through the Family Resources Center for more than 30 years, and Vicki and Allan Waldschmidt of rural Henry. Longtime members of the diocesan Respect Life Board, the Waldschmidts were credited with giving countless hours during all phases of the planning and construction of the center, inside and out.
“A BLESSED DAY”
“It’s a blessed day. It’s just wonderful, what God has done,” Jan Smith told The Catholic Post, but was quick to add, “The dream’s not over.”
“We’re hoping now to expand into a lot of new programs to reach a lot more people and we hope that centers like this will grow up across the country and the world, to teach the truth about life and help build happy and holy families,” she said. “If we don’t have happy and holy families, we don’t have a happy and holy world. It’s got to start there.”
Smith extended her gratitude to all the supporters of the Family Resources Center over the last 33 years and said they were responsible for keeping the ministry “going and growing.”
Pete Smith recalled the contributions made by the late Father John Dietzen, the former chair of the Diocesan Respect Life Board. Noting that the priest was instrumental in getting the center started, Smith said, “I’m sure he was here with us today in spirit.”
“I kind of pinch myself that this is real. So much work has gone into it,” said Father William Miller, IC, the current chair of the Diocesan Respect Life Board and episcopal vicar for respect life for the Diocese of Peoria.
“This is the fruit of decades of commitment and perseverance by people like Jan and Pete, which inspired the kind of generosity that made this building possible,” he said. “On top of that is the vision of our bishop, to bring together that kind of dedication, generosity and vision.”
Sister Ana Pia Cordua, SCTJM, director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria and master of ceremonies for the blessing and dedication ceremony, said the greatest joy is knowing that more people will be formed by and informed about the Gospel of Life.
“Respect life has a concrete face, it has a concrete ministry and it has a home now,” she said.
The Family Resources Center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and until 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Saturday hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call (309) 637-1713.