By Jennifer Neville, Of The Catholic Virginian
St. Bede Parish in Williamsburg is feeling more like “home,” many of its parishioners say, now that a $10.5 million ministry/administration building has been completed.
The addition has brought nearly all of the parish staff, faith formation and ministries under one roof.
Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo was present Sunday, March 26, to celebrate Mass and bless the building, the statue of the Welcoming Christ and the two bell towers.
The Mass was bi-lingual in English and Spanish to accommodate the growing number of Hispanic worshippers at St. Bede’s. The regular Mass in Spanish, normally celebrated on Sundays at 2 p.m., had been cancelled to allow both Anglos and Hispanics to worship together.
St. Bede Parish, founded in 1932, had its first church on Richmond Road near the center of Colonial Williamsburg. The present church was built on Ironbound Road, approximately three miles from the original location. The previous church building is still in use by Catholic Campus Ministry for the College of William and Mary and parish weekday Mass at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday at 9 a.m.
The move to a larger church in 2003 was necessary because the number of parish families had more than doubled and there was insufficient parking space for parishioners and visitors at the landlocked location.
Over the past several decades St. Bede parish offices and various ministries have been operating from multiple locations. Most recently it had been divided among four sites.
The administrative staff had been housed in both the current building and a rented facility called the Annex on John Tyler Highway. Faith formation classes from kindergarten to eighth grade were held at Walsingham Academy in Williamsburg.
The high school youth met in the current church basement and adult faith formation was held at the Annex.
The parish’s original church property, now called the Downtown Catholic Center, houses the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham (the original church), the House of Mercy (formerly known as St. Bede’s Outreach) and Catholic Campus Ministry. Its location is more accessible to clients and William and Mary students.
St. Bede’s new 45,000-square feet addition includes a piazza around the front of the church and two bell towers.
In addition to parish offices, there is a large parish hall known as Kaplan Parish Hall, named in honor of parishioners James and Jane Kaplan. It can seat 450 persons at tables or 600 in theater-style seating.
There is a full-service kitchen and 13 conference rooms which can be partitioned into 22 meeting spaces.
The addition’s two wings flank the original structure making the worship space the focal point.
Director of Development Beatrice Sanford described the addition as two arms welcoming individuals into the building’s heart – the worship space.
A statue of the Welcoming Christ, donated by Mr. and Mrs. Martin DiLoreto, welcomes visitors with words from the Gospel of John 7:37 written on the pedestal “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.”
This same statue sends worshippers forth when they leave the church with words from Mathew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
In his homily Bishop DiLorenzo thanked St. Bede parishioners for their generosity in their support of the Diocese’s Living Our Mission campaign and support of its many parish ministries.
He said that many today are troubled by problems in their life and face worry, angst and anxiety. Some have bought into the view that there is no life after death.
These conditions, Bishop DiLorenzo maintained, draw people away from God.
But the answer is found in the Church and the peace of Jesus. The expanded St. Bede’s, offering a variety of ministries, should be seen as a place where people can go to calm their fears and worries. This can be accomplished through programs of religious education for children, adult faith formation and evangelization, to name just a few.
Mrs. Sanford called the addition a “game changer” that allows the parish to better foster a sense of community.
She explained that the addition of Kaplan Hall and kitchen enables the parish to expand events like the Father/Daughter Dance and Couples Date Night for engaged and married couples.
It can be used for wedding and funeral receptions.
The hall will allow St. Bede’s to host new events which might include pot-luck dinners and receptions to welcome new parishioners.
Many of the new rooms, as well as rooms in the first building, are named for former pastors of St. Bede’s. There is one named for Bishop DiLorenzo. The former pastor’s office/study is known as the Bishop (Walter F.) Sullivan parlor and will be used as a bride’s waiting room and for families who come to plan a funeral.
With religious education for children now in the same building as the worship space, parish leaders hope families will celebrate Mass together. The Sunday 11 a.m. Mass is held directly after children’s classes.
St. Bede’s fundraising campaign was aptly called “Around One Table.”
Msgr. Timothy Keeney, pastor, says the initial vision of having everything under one roof has been fulfilled.