|September 8, 2014 • VOL. 52, NO. 15 • Oakland, CA|
| St. James to break ground for $2M education center
When St. James the Apostle Parish was established in 1972, Mass was held in a large, cinderblock building more suited to the gymnasium/parish hall it was supposed to become, once a church was built on the Fremont property.
In what the pastor calls "a turning point in the life of this area," on Sept. 13 parishioners will celebrate the groundbreaking of the Mother Teresa Center.
Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, will preside at the groundbreaking ceremony at 3 p.m. Sept. 13 at the parish, 34700 Fremont Blvd., Fremont. Entertainment will begin at 2 p.m., and hospitality will follow at 4 p.m.
Faced with the choice of constructing the long-awaited church or a classroom building, Father Vazhappilly said, "I went with the future."
The future was right in front of him. Since his arrival seven years ago, the parish has grown from 150 registered families to 800. At 9:15 a.m. on Saturday — after Mass has been celebrated in the church — the faith formation program for children takes over, using every space available.
Once the Mother Teresa Center is completed — in about seven months, the pastor said he hopes — there will be even more room to grow.
"I'm so happy," the pastor said, describing the building that will have six classrooms, one or two small offices and a commercial kitchen. The 7,500-square-foot structure will be built behind the grotto.
"Our idea is classrooms," he said. The walls will be moveable, allowing them all to be opened into a hall that can accommodate 300 people.
Increasing opportunities for young people will be high on the agenda for the parish that is fueled by an all-volunteer staff. In the additional space, a middle school faith formation program will have room to grow.
Parish groups will have places to gather. "All meetings can be held in the center," he said. More than 100 people participate in faith groups, he said.
The cost, an estimated $2 million, has been raised through a three-year capital campaign. Festivals have added to the kitty: Last year $113,000 was raised in the annual festival.
The center is named for Mother Teresa. "I personally knew Mother Teresa," said Father Vazhappilly. "I was a chaplain to her sisters.
"I thought Mother Teresa would be a big inspiration. I was inspired by her. Her name will be an inspiration to young and old."
The pastor is pleased the parish is going forward with the education center. "The future is the children," he said. "We will take care of the future church."
But don't count out an eventual church to be built on the site. Father Vazhappilly has some ideas of where it would be situated. "About eight years down the road," he said.
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