By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 5, 2009
January was a month of celebrating the past and looking to the future at Christ the King Cathedral.
Worshippers on Jan. 18 marked the 70th anniversary of the dedication of the mother church of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated a Sunday Mass, which was the centerpiece of the anniversary remembrance. He gave the community a gift of historical photos of the Gothic church’s dedication.
The early founders of the cathedral were “a fledgling but intrepid group of Catholics” who had the vision to build “in the boonies of Buckhead,” said the archbishop.
“They laid the foundation for a wonderful parish family and an even more wondrous archdiocesan community. They were convinced that Christ could and would be found here—not only within the church walls, but in the life of faith that they sought to establish together as the new parish of Christ the King,” Archbishop Gregory said.
In 1939, the Catholic community dedicated the French Gothic church on Peachtree Road after two years of construction. At the time, some 400 people belonged to the parish. The building was constructed to seat more than 700. The building often overflows now with its 5,600 registered families, one of the largest parishes in the archdiocese.
New Building For Parish And Middle School
A 20-year renovation project is under consideration as the parish looks to the future.
The plan gives the parish more room to spread out and allows its school to enhance its options for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. It also updates aging buildings.
This project is the biggest building plan for the parish in nearly 10 years. It comes in the midst of financial belt-tightening.
Father Frank McNamee said the community is in desperate need of more space. A parish hall built for people to socialize in is rarely available because it is used as an overflow room for Mass. He said the parishioners would let organizers know if they can financially support the plan.
“At the weekend, there’s no place for our parish to fellowship,” he said.
He arrived to be the cathedral’s pastor in January after leading the successful $12 million construction of a new St. Peter Chanel Church in Roswell, which was dedicated in November. Father McNamee said he enjoys working with parishioners to build.
“They have done tremendous groundwork. We are providing for the needs of the parishioners,” he said. “I’m excited about the project.”
The late Msgr. Thomas Kenny led the parish through its last renovations and parish improvement, the parish center construction.
Archbishop Gregory wrote a note in support of the project and said the campus improvements were one of Msgr. Kenny’s favorite projects. He said Msgr. Kenny endorsed the plan and worked to ensure it helped both the parish and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Bob Connelly, the chairperson of the parish’s planning committee, said, “I think everybody who is familiar with our campus knows it is short of space. There is such a need.”
He declined to give construction cost estimates and said the plans were too preliminary to discuss expenses.
The project was unveiled Jan. 7 to nearly 200 parishioners who attended the meeting. The plans call for:
– building new classrooms for middle school students in a new commons building that would also assist the parish;
– expanding the parking deck;
– opening a “classically designed” small park behind the school;
– buildling a new recreation building.
Construction and planning would take place during five phases. The plans do not enlarge the sanctuary of the cathedral. Instead, a new multi-purpose building would be built and used for overflow crowds and meeting spaces. The rectory would be knocked down to erect the three-story building, which is the plan’s top priority.
The school would occupy the lower two floors of the new commons building.
Principal Peggy Warner of Christ the King School said a recent survey of teachers highlighted a new separate facility for middle school grades as the biggest need.
Students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade are in different stages of physical and emotional development and their educational needs are best met with their own space, she said.
The parochial school is limited to 560 students. It has no plans to increase enrollment, according to materials given to parishioners.
Backers of the plan said the school maybe the only one in the city where children play on blacktop. The proposed park would not host sports events or have amenities, like a sound system. As part of the expansion, the cathedral would buy two apartment buildings and knock them down to build the small park. Overall, the plans call for buying three lots on Peachtree Way and two on East Wesley Road.
Connelly said the hope is neighbors would enjoy a park on the street versus the existing apartments.
Connelly said the committee is talking with two neighborhood groups to work on their concerns. Traffic flow appears to be a priority, as is respecting the neighborhood atmosphere around the parish, he said. Developing parish facilities further east on Peachtree Way is also an issue that needs to be addressed, he said.
The parking deck would be enlarged with an extra 204 parking spaces. The addition would connect to the existing deck on Peachtree Way, which has 344 spaces. Connelly said the additional parking would remove more cars from surrounding streets and improve traffic flow, a concern of neighbors.
Some of the existing buildings, including the Hyland Center gym, would be updated.
The next step is to apply to the city of Atlanta for a special permit to allow the buildings on the campus. And the church will look at hiring a company to manage the capital campaign.
More information about the 20-year campus plan at the Cathedral of Christ the King can be found on the parish’s Web site at www.cathedralofchristtheking.org.