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CURRENT ISSUE:  September 5, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 15   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
 
Diocese offers new web site
 
SF supervisor targets pregnancy center advertising
Brentwood parish opens
Community Life Center
 

Father Jerry Brown (left), pastor  of Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Deacon Ron Horan bless the new Community Life Center.
photos above and below courtesy of William Curtis Rolf, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish

At Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Brentwood, the Community Life Center has opened, providing the parish of more than 5,700 families additional space for gathering, classes, preparing food, and carrying out its 103 — and counting — ministries.

Parishioners processed to the center’s distinctive tower after the 12:30 p.m. Mass on Aug. 14, as Father Jerry Brown, pastor, and Deacon Ron Horan blessed the 12,700-square-foot structure. After the blessing, parishioners gathered for the first time in the new 5,700-square-foot parish hall for cake and lemonade.

Calling Deacon Horan the project’s godfather would not be an understatement. In addition to his 33 years as a deacon, he had a career at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that involved construction contracts — including experience with modular buildings.

A distinctive tower graces the entrance to the new Community Life Center at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Brentwood.
Michele Jurich photo
The only from-the-ground-up construction was the tower, which, in terms of design, unites the new buildings to the existing church. The remaining buildings — offices, library, classrooms, commercial kitchen and that big parish hall — are modular. They were constructed in a Southern California factory and traveled up Interstate 5 to the Brentwood site. They arrived the week after Easter, and were lifted into place by cranes. The advantages of modular buildings is that while the site work was being completed, their walls, ceilings, doors and windows were being built elsewhere.

Parishioner Conrad de Jesus was the project architect. Performance Modular in Elk Grove was the designer/builder.

The new Community Life Center reflects the generosity of the parishioners. Plaques are placed on various buildings: The San Lorenzo Ruiz Library is the Fil-Am Community’s contribution; the commercial kitchen is the gift of the Italian-Catholic Federation; the parish hall, the center’s largest element, is the result of a $500,000 pledge from the Hispanic community of the parish. The tower is a gift from the parish Knights of Columbus.

An important part of the remodel is the reclamation of worship space in the church. It will “relieve the wear and tear” on the sanctuary, which was also used by CCD classes.

With more than 1,000 children in CCD classes, space had been at a premium. Classes were held, Deacon Horan said, “anywhere you could make a 12-foot circle.” Sometimes three or four classes at a time used the center aisle of the church. But not this year. Students will be using four new classrooms wired for voice, data and video.

The library will be the realm of adults who gather for meetings. Built-in bookshelves will hold a variety of collections, and one wall reserves space for the hoped-for donation of a 55-inch flat-screen television.

Harvest feeds new ministry

(See photo below.)

More than 1,700 pounds of vegetables have been harvested by a new ministry of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, which turned an unused portion of the church property into the Catholic Community Garden of Brentwood.

The produce, harvested on Thursday evenings, is being distributed Friday mornings by the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry to families in need.

The garden began this spring from the ground up, with volunteers cultivating the land that had been dormant for about a decade, installing a drip irrigation system that uses well water from the property, and planting 20 rows, 50 feet deep, of cucumbers, zucchini, squash, basil, Swiss chard, peppers, eggplant, carrots and tomatoes. Watermelon and cantaloupe were also planted.

Ken Klovee, chairman of the gardeners, sees it as a stewardship garden, where time and talent provide treasure for families that welcome the fresh produce to their tables. About 100 families are being assisted with food from the parish.

“We’ve learned so much this year,” Klovee said. “We are blessed with good soil and well water.”

Klovee said he is moving from employment to retirement. “When you retire, do something you love to do,” he said. At home, he grew “one or two tomato plants — nothing this size.”

He spends his early mornings in the garden, and returns for those harvesting sessions Thursday evenings.
The garden got an early boost when parishioner Tino Bacchini, a retired farmer, brought his tractor and tilled the ground, which had been home to an orchard. Another parishioner, Carlos Hernandez, donated seedlings from his Asahi Nursery. Parishioner Bill Mikelonis, a Contra Costa County Master Gardener, provided additional expertise, and access to vegetable seeds. The garden is registered with the Master Gardener program through the University of California, Davis.

Among the projects planned for next year is to get the young people of the parish out working in the garden by offering classes.

And while the 200 tomato plants are prolific, something else has been growing: interest by parishioners. The garden committee has been fielding suggestions for crops for a winter garden. There may be some broccoli and lettuce, Klovee said, but the committee may focus its efforts on what to plant next spring.

—Michele Jurich

From left, Bill Mikelonis, Marge Perez, Ken Klovee and Juan Rojo show some of the fruits of the garden that will be distributed by the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
photo courtesy of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish
 
 
The center’s office provides space for the parish’s three priests and business manager as well as conference rooms and space for the office staff.

The commercial kitchen is still being finished; it should be in place by the holidays. The parish is grateful to St. Isidore Parish in Danville, which made some kitchen elements available. The kitchen bears the name of Father Joseph Fiedorwicz, a former pastor.

The hall, which bears the name of Father John Garcia, will accommodate 375 for a sit-down dinner and 690 lecture-style. The hall can be divided into three or four distinct spaces; the addition of accordion doors will make it divisible by six.

The project got off the ground when the city of Brentwood let the parish know that it wanted the parish to pave an unpaved parking lot. “If the city wants a parking lot,” Deacon Horan said, “now’s the time to get approval for a building.”

Later in 2008 they began the plan; in 2009 the capital campaign began. Four months into the campaign, they had the money to begin work.

Deacon Horan praised the work of Don Shoop of Performance Modular. At the request for proposals, Deacon Horan said, Shoop did not speak negatively about his competitors. He also told the parish, “I’ll be on the job site every day.” And he was.

The building phase spanned 14 months, and included the paving of the remainder of that previously unpaved parking area, adding 193 spaces.

Deacon Horan, who has had a dozen assignments in seven parishes, calls Immaculate Heart of Mary “the most dynamic place I’ve ever been.” He recently baptized 17 babies — with 400 people in attendance.

“This place is on fire,” he said. “The people are welcoming, and it’s culturally diverse.”

The project is called a Community Life Center, Horan said, to show that it is a place not only for parishioners, but for outreach to the greater community.

An example of that community-building was present at the blessing. Among the parishioners was a group of officials from the local Mormon church, who had participated in the Interfaith Blood Drive alongside parishioners last month and accepted an invitation to the dedication.

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