ITHACA — While showing a visitor the many attributes of St. Catherine of Siena Parish’s new parish center, Father Joe Marcoux paused to make special mention of a short and seemingly simple walkway.
“Really, it’s about this line,” St. Catherine’s pastor said, pointing at the covered passageway’s starting point in the church and moving his finger toward where it ends in the parish-center atrium.
Father Marcoux explained that unlike the previous parish center, which was a separate building on the parish property, the new facility is attached to the church thanks to the walkway. With this design, he said, the parish community can experience both physical and symbolic signs of connectedness.
That unity will be celebrated when St. Catherine welcomes Bishop Salvatore R. Matano on April 29, the feast of its patron saint. Bishop Matano will dedicate the new building and celebrate 5 p.m. Mass that evening.
The parish center, which opened in mid-February, measures 9,400 square feet and was completed at a cost of $4 million. Finishing touches for the project — must notably the razing of the original center and creation of parking space in its place — are currently winding down.
Among the new structure’s notable features are the following:
* The aforementioned atrium, which offers spacious surroundings, particularly for social gatherings after weekend Masses. Although the former parish center — which had served the parish since 1964 — was only a short walk away on the St. Catherine campus, Father Marcoux said Mass-goers now must pass directly through the atrium to exit from church to the main parking lot, and thus are more likely to stick around for coffee hours and such.
* Mahler Hall, which serves as a multipurpose facility. It can be separated into six religious-education classrooms, yet with the removal of a series of partitions, the hall can be transformed into a one-room gathering space for more than 150 people for wedding receptions and other banquet-type events. Mahler Hall is named for Father Michael J. Mahler, who was pastor of St. Catherine from 2003 until his death in 2009. According to Father Marcoux, Father Mahler left a large bequest earmarked for the parish center’s construction.
* A large meeting room as well as a pastoral-care room, the latter of which is dedicated to Msgr. Donald M. Cleary, founding pastor of St. Catherine in 1960.
* An open-space office area with private offices along each side.
* A glass design separating the atrium from the offices, as well as a smattering of stained-glass inserts in windows throughout the parish center.
* A spacious kitchen facility.
* State-of-the art technology including televisions and projection screens in religious-education classrooms and a camera in the church that allows for live streaming of Masses.
* Five restrooms, an increase from two in the old parish center.
With Richard McElhiney Architects of New York City doing the architectural design, and Edger Enterprises of Elmira serving as contractor, the project was begun in May 2016 and completed in a mere nine months. On the other hand, Father Marcoux noted, talks about a new parish center had been going on at St. Catherine for more than 20 years. He said the parish’s growth — St. Catherine’s population has risen from 500 to 700 families since his pastorate began in 2010 — finally made erecting a new parish center a necessity.
“It’s a very vibrant and thriving community, and growing every day,” Father Marcoux remarked, adding that “we’re forever grateful to the bishop” regarding Bishop Matano’s go-ahead last year for the project to move forward. He added that despite the parish center’s $4 million price tag, the building is nearly paid off.
“We’re very fortunate,” said June Haynor, parish administrative assistant, commenting on the beauty of her new workplace as well as the parish support that made it possible.
Also enjoying the new parish center are many organizations from the wider community, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and senior-citizen groups that hold exercise classes there.
“This building is the talk of the town. This has exceeded my expectations,” Father Marcoux said. “I knew it was going to be a functional building and a practical building, but I had no idea it was going to be so beautiful.”