St. Philomena, Peoria, blesses ground for new parish center, campus renovation

Pictured with a sample of dirt from the building site and the foundation stone for the new St. Philomena Parish Center in Peoria during ground blessing ceremonies March 13 are, from left, Tracy Coker of Dewberry Architecture; Eric Bursott of River City Construction; Churck Grayeb, Peoria City Council representative; Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis; Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC; Father David Richardson, pastor; Steve Knecht and Allyson Schneider, parish trustees; Mike Mahoney and Kris Coulter, representing the building and capital campaign committees. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

As a gentle rain fell on the building site March 13, holy water was sprinkled inside St. Philomena Church in Peoria on the foundation stone of a new parish center.

“Jesus is the unshakable cornerstone of your kingdom,” prayed Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, during ground blessing ceremonies for a 20,200-square- foot facility that will be connected to the church at 1000 W. Albany. “Grant that this undertaking we begin today for your glory and our well being may progress day by day to its successful completion.”

An archtect's drawing outside St. Philomena Church in Peoria shows how the new parish center will be attatched to the church, which was built in 1953. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

An archtect’s drawing outside St. Philomena Church in Peoria shows how the new parish center will be attached to the church, which was built in 1953. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

The rain may have forced the ceremonies inside, but there is no dampening the enthusiasm the parish has for the long-awaited project, made possible by a $3.2 million estate gift from Richard Griffin followed by a successful $2 million capital campaign on the theme “Living Our Faith, Building Our Future.”

“Not only do we seek to build a parish center, but to renew parts of our church, our school, and really the entire campus,” said Father David Richardson, pastor. “This investment will help us to stabilize parish ministry here for the next generation.”

He called the parish center “truly a family center” that will serve every parishioner with a large banquet room for wedding receptions and funeral luncheons, a catering kitchen, parish offices, meeting rooms, and a multi-functional basement for athletic activities, children’s recreation and faith-formation.

“As a parish community that loves and serves Jesus Christ, we desire this new parish center to help us grow in our faith and truly evangelize the whole community,” said Father Richardson. In addition to expressing gratitude for the generosity of Richard Griffin and parishioners who responded to the capital campaign, Father Richardson also thanked diocesan and city officials, Dewbury Architecture and River City Construction for their roles in the project, and parish leaders including trustees, the finance council, and members of the building and capital campaign committees.

A GROWING PARISH

Mayor Jim Ardis of Peoria called it an exciting day “not just for St. Philomena Parish but also for our community.”

“A $6 million reinvestment in this property is so important not just to your parish,” he told about 250 people gathered for the 1 p.m. ceremonies on Sunday, “but the message it sends out to our whole community that the strong Catholic community here is alive and in the case of St. Philomena’s it will be growing.”

Following the indoor ceremonies, many families stepped out into the rain to play their own role in the historic day. Among those shoveling dirt at the building side for the new parish center were Elizabeth, Mark, and Matt Hanley. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Following the indoor ceremonies, many families stepped out into the rain to play their own role in the historic day. Among those shoveling dirt at the building side for the new parish center were Elizabeth, Mark, and Matt Hanley. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Indeed, the 1,300-family parish has been growing, by about 25 percent over the last decade. School enrollment has increased by 100 students in that time, and Bishop Jenky noted that when new Catholics from parishes around the diocese through RCIA are annually welcomed at the cathedral, St. Philomena’s always brings one of the largest groups.

He called the new construction “an outward sign of an inward reality.”

“I am so happy to say the inward reality of St. Philomena Parish is the lordship of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Jenky. “You folks show that by everything you say and do. Please know I am immensely proud of your faith, of your sense of community, of your sense of service.”

A sampling of building site dirt was brought inside the church for Sunday’s brief indoor blessing ceremonies. Photographs were taken of parish and project leaders holding shovels.

Parish families had been invited to bring their own shovels to participate in a planned outdoor ceremonial dig, and after the indoor ceremonies many stepped to the edge of the parking lot beneath a tent to turn some wet ground and be photographed as part of the historic day.

EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from the blessing ceremonies can be found on The Catholic Post’s Facebook page. Further information on the project and capital campaign is found at campaign.stphils.com.

 

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