OLQP breaks ground for new Family Life Center with new bishop who had served there as a seminarian

By Jenara Kocks Burgess

Correspondent

Photos by Bertha Salazar

February 11, 2014

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Then Bishop-elect Michael Olson blesses the ground where Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish’s Family Life Center will stand.

Parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Wichita Falls filled the pews on Sunday, Jan. 26, to celebrate Mass and then a groundbreaking for their new Family Life Center with the then Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Michael F. Olson. Bishop-elect Olson had, years earlier, served his internship year as a seminarian at their parish.

Bishop Olson was ordained the fourth bishop of Fort Worth just four days later on Wednesday, Jan. 29.

“...We come with gratitude in our hearts, and we come with our particular needs today and ask God to bless the new Family Life Center that this parish has begun for the good of its life as a local church as well as in fostering the spread of the Gospel,” said Bishop-elect Olson, during the opening prayer.

Before the present OLQP church was completed in 2009, for more than 50 years parishioners had used a renovated gymnasium at its adjoining Notre Dame School as its worship space. Dan Shine, parish building committee chairman, said the original plan was to build the Family Life Center along with the church in 2009.

“It basically started 5 or 6 years ago with the [parish’s] 50th celebration, and it kind of continued. This completes the dream,” Shine said.

OLQP was able to raise enough money in 2009, $4 million, to pay off the church building, which is 22,600 square feet and can accommodate 1,000 people, said Shine and Deacon Jim Bindel. The church also includes some meeting rooms, so it was decided to build a new parish hall later, Shine said. Instead, the old church was renovated into a parish hall, but it’s still too small for large gatherings, say some parishioners.

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Bishop-elect Olson holds up the host during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. He is joined on the altar by pastor Father Sojan George, HGN, (right), and Deacon Jim Bindel (left).

“I’ve been to several dinners here. They flow into the school cafeteria because it is so crowded. We need the area for the turkey dinner and several things,” said Monica Augustine who has been an OLQP parishioner since 1984.

Father Sojan George, HGN, who has been pastor at Our Lady Queen of Peace since 2011, said the new addition will be 20,460 square feet. He also said the current parish hall only accommodates 300 people, but the new hall will accommodate 650. All the meeting rooms together in the building will accommodate 150 people, Dcn. Bindel said. The hall will be attached on the east side of the church, Fr. Sojan said.

“It is part of our master plan that we had when we built the church to have a parish hall that’s connected to the church on the same side of street,” said Dcn. Bindel. “If we have something in the church now and we have a reception or something in the parish hall, we lose people. They go out to their car and say, ‘I’m going to go home,’” Dcn. Bindel said. “This way they can get to it from the hallways inside, so it’s just more accessible for them.”

Shine said the parish has also needed a new kitchen. The one currently used in the parish hall is the Notre Dame School cafeteria.

Fr. Sojan and Dcn. Bindel both said the new Family Life Center will also have four meeting rooms for the many activities in the growing parish including religious education for children, religious formation for adults, RCIA, Bible study groups, Altar Society, Christ Renews His Parish retreats for both men and women, Catholic Charities, Men’s Club, and outreach programs.

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Bishop Olson joins area clergy and members of the building committee in breaking the ground for the new Family Life Center.

Sister Patricia Ste. Marie, SSMN, who now leads Scripture studies at the church, said she was very excited about the new Family Life Center during the groundbreaking ceremony Jan. 26.

Sr. Ste. Marie said she had worked at the church “for 28 years as adult formation director, and we never had enough room to do our programs. We have so many more programs now and so many more people,” she said, “that it’s really wonderful that we’re going to have something big enough.”

The construction will also include a 3,200-square-foot renovation of the existing chapel in the church, a new confessional, and religious article room, Fr. Sojan said. The St. Joseph Room will also be moved into the Family Life Center part of the building and enlarged to accommodate 130 instead of 75, said Dcn. Bindel.

Fr. Sojan said the church also plans to convert the present parish hall to a youth center once the Family Life Center is completed. “The youth ministry is vital for our parish, and they don’t have a place to call their own now.”

Fr. Sojan said the construction phase for the Family Life Center will take 10 months and will cost $3 million. “The design phase cost us $126,000,” he said. “We are in the midst of a capital campaign to raise money and thanks to the generosity of the parishioners, our pledges have reached over $2.2 million.”

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Fr. George walks from the church to the ground where the new Family Life Center will be. Behind him are Bishop Olson (right) and Father Jack McKone (left). They are saluted by the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus.

Harper Perkins Architects in Wichita Falls, which designed the new church in 2009 also designed the current parish hall’s renovation. M&F Litteken Co., who built the church and renovated the hall, will be constructing the new center.

Sara Klein, who has been a parishioner at OLQP since 2004 with her husband Jeff, said during the groundbreaking ceremony that she looks forward to having extra space for CHRP, RCIA, and all the other activities that help build the parish’s Catholic faith and community.

 “It hasn’t been very long since the church was built, this one right here, and so just to see everyone give so much again is really amazing. I think it will definitely grow,” she said.

Bishop Olson, Fr. Sojan, Dcn. Bindel, and Shine, joined M.F. Litteken Co. owner Kevin Darnell, Sacred Heart Church Pastor Jack McKone, OLQP Pastoral Council member Rita Vokes, and OLQP Pastoral Council President Ray Hanold in breaking the ground with shovels on the beautiful sunny day as a large crowd of parishioners and visitors watched.

After the groundbreaking ceremony, Caroline Studdard, who was the secretary at Our Lady Queen of Peace for 26 and a half years (including while Bishop Olson was a seminarian serving at OLQP), said it was very special to have Bishop Olson celebrating the Mass and groundbreaking for the Family Life Center.

“He’s kept in touch with me all these years. He’s just a great guy. We jokingly say we raised him. He was only 26 years old or so when he was here,” Studdard said.

“It’s important to see a lot of good, dear friends of mine …with whom I not only have personal friendships but also now have pastoral responsibility and care for,” Bishop Olson said. “And I’m so excited that they’re investing in a Family Life Center. It will help not only individual families, but also the entire parish family, as well as contribute to the common good for Wichita Falls,” he said.

OLQP-Bp-Olson-blsg-BUTTON.jpgParishioners of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Wichita Falls filled the pews on Sunday, Jan. 26, to celebrate Mass and then a groundbreaking for their new Family Life Center with the then Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Michael F. Olson. Bishop-elect Olson had, years earlier, served his internship year as a seminarian at their parish. Bishop Olson was ordained the fourth bishop of Fort Worth just four days later on Wednesday, Jan. 29. “...We come with gratitude in our hearts, and we come with our particular needs today and ask God to bless the new Family Life Center that this parish has begun for the good of its life as a local church as well as in fostering the spread of the Gospel,” said Bishop-elect Olson, during the opening prayer.

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