By ERIKA ANDERSON REDDING, Special to the Bulletin | Published July 5, 2018
KENNESAW—There was a lot to celebrate on a recent summer evening at St. Catherine of Siena Church—and a pastor and his flock came together to rejoice in both the past and the future of a church and a life dedicated to Christ.
On May 31, parishioners gathered at St. Catherine’s in Kennesaw to celebrate the 10th ordination anniversary of their pastor, Father Neil Dhabliwala, and the groundbreaking of the church’s new parish hall.
The Mass began with the pealing of church bells as the Knights of Columbus lined the aisle with their swords aloft. Msgr. Richard Lopez, senior priest and former longtime teacher at Atlanta’s St. Pius X High School—Father Dhabliwala’s alma mater—concelebrated the Mass and served as homilist.
“An extension of their ministry”
Msgr. Lopez began his homily by offering his thanks to Father Dhabliwala’s parents, who were in attendance.
“For the past 10 years, every baptism you’ve performed, every Mass you’ve said, every sermon you’ve preached, every action you’ve done in the service of Jesus Christ and his people is an extension of your parents’ love,” he said. “Because they were the first ones to teach you and tell you what it’s all about. So for the past 10 years, your ministry is also an extension of their ministry.”
Msgr. Lopez taught Father Dhabliwala at St. Pius more than 20 years ago and joked that he worried because of past history that Father Dhabliwala might fall asleep while he was preaching.
“When Father Neil was my student back in 1996, I had no idea something like tonight would happen,” he said. “My student is now on the altar with me, sharing the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This student is sharing the same ministry with me. This student has become one of my dearest and best friends. And indeed he was my student 20 years ago, but I have now become his student. Because I’ve watched him these last 10 years. I’ve seen his courage in preaching the fullness of the Catholic faith. I’ve seen his love for the liturgy. I’ve seen his devotion to you, the people of God … Indeed he has become my teacher, and I’m so grateful.”
At the end of Mass, the permanent deacons of the parish presented Father Dhabliwala with a framed papal blessing from Pope Francis.
Father Dhabliwala thanked those in attendance—including those who came from his past assigned parishes—and expressed his gratitude for the people of St. Catherine’s.
“It has been an incredible two years for me here. I can’t thank you enough for the fellowship, for your support and your love, and I’d urge you to please just keep praying for me—I certainly need it,” he said. “I look forward to many more years here.”
Father Dhabliwala expressed his commitment to the future of St. Catherine’s by celebrating his anniversary Mass in conjunction with the groundbreaking for the new parish hall. Following the Mass, attendees made their way to the field between the church and the parish school, where white tents, punch and cupcakes with blue frosting awaited. Church and school representatives donned hard hats and dug into the earth with shovels to signify the future of the parish hall.
An addition to match the growth
Father Dhabliwala said the capital campaign was “off to a good start” and that he appreciated everyone’s generosity.
“It’s really exciting, and I can’t wait to see the building. I know we’re going to be using it so much, and it’s going to be a great blessing for our parish and our school,” he said.
The new parish hall, which is anticipated to open in early 2019, will include a large gathering space with enough seating for approximately 300 people at round tables. The building will also include a kitchen, meeting room, a permanent stage, and an outdoor deck and patio with a fireplace. Enhanced acoustic and audiovisual capabilities will add to the fellowship and faith formation activities of the parish and the school. The building of the hall is part of a $4 million capital campaign, which also includes paying off existing parish debt and planning for significant repairs in the church.
The hall will be an exciting addition to the already robust St. Catherine’s parish and school life—and parishioners and staff are excited to see it come to fruition.
Karen Pickens, director of St. Catherine Preschool, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year, has been with the preschool for 23 of those years.
“I have witnessed the growth of St. Catherine’s parish over these years and know how hard the clergy and staff are constantly working to make our campus the best place it can be,” Pickens said. “St. Catherine’s Church, School and Preschool have so much to offer the Catholic community, and our new parish hall will be absolutely the perfect addition for our thriving St. Catherine’s family. I am incredibly proud to be a part of this unbelievable parish family.”
Nashville Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia Mary Jacinta, principal of the school, also believes in the family environment found at St. Catherine’s.
“St. Catherine’s is a place where family matters—a lot. From our pastor and deacons to teachers and leaders of ministry, our parish cares about parents and does our very best to support them in raising their children into saints,” she said. “The new parish hall will be an exciting addition to our parish community—it will allow us to host even more family-friendly events.”
Chris Prangley, chair of the capital planning committee, said the new parish hall is a natural next step for the growing community
“St. Catherine of Siena has become a pillar of prayer, education, fellowship and charity for our greater community. Our ministries are busting at the seams in our growing parish, and we need more space,” he said. “The new parish hall is a welcome addition and will be a cornerstone for continued programs, evangelization and outreach for those we serve.”
Charissa Saenz, director of marketing and development, referred to a quote from St. Catherine of Siena where she encouraged the faithful to be who God designed them to be and in turn, they will “set the world on fire.”
“The community of St. Catherine’s has always challenged me to become who I am meant to be for God. As we watch these expansions in the church bursting around us, I am thrilled at the witness it gives to my children who can see where our heart really is, and where the heart of our community really is—it is in the Eucharist, in the Church, it rests in Christ,” she said. “This is where we spend our time; this is where we give our treasure and our talent. This is where we become who we are meant to be, and hopefully with God’s help, our children and all of the children and the faithful who are formed here at St. Catherine’s will go out and set the world on fire for Christ.”