By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published August 5, 2010
The Catholic faithful who have been attending the San Felipe de Jesus Mission are continuing to pray as construction of a new church carries on.
The initial groundbreaking for the new building took place in May and the mission’s administrator, Father Jacques Fabre, hopes the project will continue on schedule to be ready for opening early next year. The mission plans to celebrate the completion of the new building near the feast of their patron saint, St. Philip of Jesus, in February or early March of 2011.
As the community continued to grow and strengthen during the last few years, the community felt it was time to discern the possibility of building a new worship space. According to Father Fabre, nearly 700 people come to each of the weekend Masses and force themselves into a gathering space that only holds just over 300. Their answer to prayer came when Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory approved the ground breaking for San Felipe’s new church.
The church, which seats 300 people, was filled front to back and side to side for the Mass preceding the May 19 groundbreaking.
“We were given permission by the archbishop to begin construction of the new building,” said Father Fabre, who has served as administrator for the mission for just over two years. “The capacity in our church now shows how we need a larger space.”
In addition to the expanded worship space, the new building will include a confessional and a cry room, two amenities the mission has been living without since its establishment in late 1992. There will also be new pews and a new altar.
The building is being constructed next to the existing church on Conley Road in Forest Park. Father Fabre said once the community moves into the new space, the old space will be converted into the parish hall to be used for various gatherings.
Overall, the San Felipe de Jesus Mission ministers to more than 4,000 people. Since it is still under mission status there are no officially registered members, which makes tracking the numbers of parishioners somewhat difficult. However, since there are nearly 700 people at each of the five weekend Masses, it does not take much to realize how badly this community of thousands needs a larger space to worship together.