By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published October 14, 2010
As the faithful parishioners of St. Benedict Church prepared to process from the church to their new Family Life Center, the clouds overhead opened to release a downpour of cool rain, though it did not dampen the spirits of the people.
Instead, a colorful array of umbrellas speckled the crowd as old and young alike huddled together to try and stay dry in the heavy rain. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory led the dedication of the new center, an addition to the Johns Creek parish that may prove to be a centerpiece in community life.
“After much hard work and prayer by so many members of St. Benedict Parish, we gather now to bless and dedicate this new Family Life Center. It will be a center for our parish activities and a place where we may come to know one another and give witness to our faith in Christ,” the archbishop said.
“It is also a place of relaxation of the mind and the exercise of the body,” he continued. “Care of our bodies fosters mental well-being and we more readily establish friendly and affable relations with other people.”
The parish community broke ground for the center in July 2009, and it was completed in 14 months. Landworks Associates, a Lawrenceville-based land planning and civil engineering consulting firm, served as project contractor and architect. Catholic Construction Services supervised and guided the $2.25 million project.
The center will provide more space for parish ministries, which, in the past, often needed to use the same space at the same time.
“We were kind of restricted with how many ministries we have,” said Angelo Sampona, the building committee chairperson. The space the parish had was not enough to match the amount of ministry activity, he said. Now the new center “has given us a lot of flexibility.”
Hundreds of parishioners were present for the Sept. 26 dedication Mass and ceremony, including members of the Taylor family, in whose honor the center was dedicated.
“Our Family Life Center is blessed and dedicated in memory of Alice Taylor and in honor of Jimmy, her husband,” said Father Paul Flood, pastor of St. Benedict Church. “Members of the Taylor family are here with us today and we warmly welcome them in this celebration in honor of their parents. Alice and Jimmy devoted a long life of service to many Catholic churches throughout our archdiocese, but their love for St. Benedict’s has always been a charm. Alice and Jimmy represent all good and faithful parishioners who have served the mission of this local church.”
Father Flood named the Family Life Center “Taylor Lodge” after the faithful couple who served the parish in various capacities over the years. Alice was an integral part of St. Benedict’s religious education ministry, while Jimmy still serves as a fourth degree Knight of Columbus in the parish council.
The 2.8-acre piece of land houses much more than Taylor Lodge. The expanse in front of the building includes an amphitheater with a stage. Stretching out in front of the stage is a large grassy area for people to gather and children to play. The parish plans to host entertainment for the community at the site.
Also included on the newly developed piece of land is a striking version of the Stations of the Cross, complete with a pathway for parishioners and visitors to walk along as they pray the stations. The large statues used for each station were acquired from King Richard’s Religious Antiques in Alpharetta and create a sense of the sacred in the community’s new space.
The parish had a capital campaign for $1.2 million for the project, of which 97 percent has been pledged and over 60 percent has been collected.
“St. Benedict’s is well known for stepping up to any challenge,” said Father Flood, adding that the parishioners have made the sacrifice during these particularly difficult economic times, showing they support the growth of the parish. “This growth is now reflected in a building project that has finally come to fruition after a very short period of time.”
In addition to using the space for ministry activities, the parish will also host social activities there, including concerts, parties and picnics, and will even offer the space to rent for wedding receptions and the like. Wayne Baughman, a parishioner at St. Benedict Church, serves as the music director and conductor of the Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra, one of many groups the parish hopes to host for a concert.
“We are all grateful that this Family Life Center will be used to enhance our quality of life, our ministries and our outreach to the surrounding community of Johns Creek and the archdiocese,” said Father Flood.