By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published August 20, 2015
GAINESVILLE—In a June 24 decree, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory elevated the status of the St. John Paul II Pastoral Center in Gainesville to a mission.
Father William Canales, parochial vicar at St. Michael Church in Gainesville, will serve as the full-time mission administrator.
The St. John Paul II Mission, dedicated as a center in 2010, operates a thrift store and a community food bank. It is located at 622 Shallowford Road in Gainesville.
Future plans are to build a church on property situated on South Smith Road near the intersection of Browns Bridge Road and McEver Road to serve the growing Catholic community in the area.
The only other Catholic church in Hall County is Prince of Peace Church in Flowery Branch, nearly 11 miles from Gainesville.
The Gainesville City Council granted initial approval to the archdiocese Aug. 4 for the zoning request. A final meeting with the city council was scheduled for the week of Aug. 18.
According to John Schiavone, director of Catholic Construction Services, a final approval would be followed by a 30-day period before closing on the property.
“We have done some preliminary master planning on the site but only to the extent necessary for the zoning application,” said Schiavone in an email. “When the zoning is complete and we close on the property, the architects will resume and complete detailed plans for the first phase of the project.”
The mission has Mass in Spanish on Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m. and four Spanish Mass times on Sunday at 8 and 10 a.m. and 1 and 5 p.m. The sacrament of reconciliation is offered before Friday and Saturday evening Masses. The mission also has a school of religion program and English language classes.
Father Canales has continued to serve both the mission and St. Michael Church, celebrating Mass and offering the sacraments.
Msgr. Jaime Barona, pastor of St. Michael, said he is blessed to have Father Canales and his energy, vital for the mission’s growth.
“He’s the one who has done all the groundwork,” said Msgr. Barona. “He’s a wonderful young man.”
Msgr. Barona said Father Canales is “really, truly a pastor” and one of the most outstanding priests he’s ever known.
Father Canales, a native of Nicaragua, was ordained to the priesthood in 2000 at the Cathedral of León, Nicaragua. In 2001 Father Canales was named dean of the minor seminary of San Ramón Nonnato, where he remained until 2004. In 2005 he was named temporary pastor of St. James the Apostle Church in Telica, serving there until embarking upon his missionary experience in the United States.
Father Canales began serving as a parochial vicar at St. Michael in 2006 when the archdiocese welcomed a number of Latin American priests to serve growing Hispanic ministries in parishes. Prior to that, he provided annual spiritual renewal programs to parishioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Carrollton.
Father Canales was a speaker for the Spanish-language track at the archdiocesan Eucharistic Congresses in 2011 and 2012.
Msgr. Barona said with more than 6,500 members St. Michael is one of the largest parishes in the archdiocese.
All who worship at the parish and at St. John Paul II Pastoral Center have hoped for “the longest time” for mission status, said Msgr. Barona.
The proposed church location on South Smith Road is approximately five miles from St. Michael Church and one mile from the current mission on Shallowford Road.
“The people at St. John Paul II are very excited,” said Msgr. Barona.
At St. Michael, the parishioners are learning more about what it means to have a mission.
The new church would keep the name of St. John Paul II, said the pastor.
“John Paul II had a very special relationship with the Latino world,” he noted.
St. John Paul II is Msgr. Barona’s own role model and inspiration to be a “good shepherd.”
“We’re very excited at St. Michael,” said Msgr. Barona. “With the grace of God, we will move forward.”
For more information on the St. John Paul II Mission, visit the St. Michael parish website at http://www.saintmichael.cc/. The mission office number is 770-532-6772 or 770-532-6778.