By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published November 17, 2016
STONE MOUNTAIN—Members of Corpus Christi Church in Stone Mountain are giving thanks for recently completed renovations that are both energy saving and enhancing.
Bishop Luis R. Zarama celebrated a Mass of rededication at the parish Oct. 23. Corpus Christi’s pastor, Father Paschal Amagba, pastor emeritus Father Gregory Kenny, and associate pastor Father Alex Gaitan, concelebrated. All the priests are members of the Claretian religious congregation. Also concelebrating the Mass was Father Kidanemariam Hadgu Gebrehiwot, vicar of the Catholic Geez rite community, which worships at Corpus Christi. The Mass was nearly 42 years to the date after the church’s original dedication on Oct. 20, 1974.
Children led the procession into Mass by placing flags representing parishioners’ native lands in a basket.
“We are gathered together to rededicate this our church, but you are the church,” Father Amagba said. “There’s no place like Corpus Christi.”
In his homily, Bishop Zarama acknowledged the worship space looks bigger and brighter with its new floor and windows.
“Why do you have this today? Because of you,” he said. “You were looking to sacrifice a little bit to make this place beautiful.”
Likewise, let us ask how our interior lives can be beautiful as well, said the bishop.
“How is the temple of my body? How is the temple of my soul? He’s inviting us, all of us, to think about it; how beautiful are we looking to be. Not physically, but spiritually,” he said. “The church can be beautiful, but without you it’s nothing.”
Oftentimes, said Bishop Zarama, people pray for others to change instead of praying to be a source of love, revealing Jesus to others.
Parishioners Frances Spinelli and Libby Walsh served as co-chairs of the building project. Walsh has been a member of Corpus Christi for 20 years, and Spinelli for 10.
“Everyone is delighted with the renovation. We now have beautiful tile floors in the sanctuary, new upholstery, lights, paint, and carpeting at the altar,” said Spinelli on behalf of Walsh. “Beautiful additions in the church are two stained glass windows at the transepts. They were designed to work with the more modern architecture of our 40-plus-year-old buildings.”
The exterior and windows of all the campus buildings are new and weatherproofed. The building’s exterior is energy-efficient, synthetic stucco. The new LED lighting assists with energy consumption.
“We have revitalized the entry plaza with a portico and bell tower and a carillon bell system. We hope to add benches and trees in the near future,” added Spinelli.
The new bells ring daily, 10 minutes prior to each Mass.
Parish embraces people from 60 countries
The idea behind the renovations was to create a more welcoming environment for the 1,200 member families and guests. Corpus Christi’s parishioners represent more than 60 countries worldwide with a large number of refugees.
Handicap-accessible restrooms are another modification to the church structure.
The building committee began exploring a new roof for the church and gym buildings in 2012. The parish replaced both roofs as well as the rooftop air conditioning units, deciding it was also an opportune time to address upgrades to weatherproof and revitalize the structures.
The committee selected Smith Boland as the architectural firm and began work with Randy Hood of Catholic Construction Services of the archdiocese to plan an affordable project.
A capital campaign, launched in October 2014, raised $1.1 million of a needed $1.7 million for a multiphase project.
Moeller Purcell Construction Co. was the contracting firm with construction work beginning in January.
Contributions are needed for additional phases of the project and may be directed to the Corpus Christi Capital Campaign Fund.
Spinelli indicated the Smith Boland master plan has three phases of priority.
“What we’ve done this year accounts for phase one—the most important work of upgrading the buildings to withstand further aging. We would like to do more interior work as outlined in the second and third phases of our master plan,” she said.
Other proposed projects include renovating the parish gym’s kitchen—the hub of many parish social activities—updating school storage space and renovating administrative offices.
“The most happy bishop”
At the celebration, Father Gaitan read a letter from Claretian Father John Molyneux, who was pastor when the capital campaign began.
“Thanks to you, an idea, a dream, has become reality,” wrote Father Molyneux.
Now serving in Chicago, the priest expressed gratitude to the building, capital campaign and finance committees and all those who gave large and modest donations or attended numerous fundraisers.
“This would not have happened without your commitment, enthusiasm and love of the parish,” read the letter. “This renovated building and worship space belongs to you. Use it with respect and with joy.”
As the Mass closed, Bishop Zarama said the multicultural celebration as one church was reaffirming.
“I don’t have any doubt the Holy Spirit exists. You need to feel proud of what you have,” Bishop Zarama told parishioners.
He added it was one of the most beautiful Masses he has celebrated as bishop.
“Thank you, thank you from my heart, for making me today the most happy bishop in the world,” he said.
“It’s very, very exciting. It’s like coming back home,” said Father Amagba about the renovated space.
He said it’s not merely a physical renewal, but also “a renewal of our baptismal call.”