By Robyn Kurth
When Good Shepherd parish in Orlando broke ground for their new church building on February 19, it was part of an effort that was nearly a decade in the making. Money raised from the parish’s Promise for Tomorrow capital campaign, which was initiated in 2003, as well as funding from Good Shepherd’s Alive in Christ campaign have made it possible for the parish to accommodate more parishioners in a church building that is scheduled to be completed by Palm Sunday weekend 2013.
The current church building, which was dedicated in 1957, seats 500 people. The new building will have 14,000 square feet of space and accommodate 1200 people. Other architectural features include a bell tower, adoration chapel, and an etched glass wall separating the main sanctuary and the adoration chapel. The new altar will be double the size of the current altar, and the choir area will triple in size. The new church is being constructed on the site of the former parish office building, which was torn down in January.
The Promise for Tomorrow campaign raised $3 million of the $3.2 million needed to build the new church, while $250,000 in Alive in Christ funds will be used towards the new church as well as repurposing the old church as a parish center.
Good Shepherd’s pastor Father Joseph O’Neil, M.S., noted that the growing parish of nearly 2000 families had been in need of more space for quite some time. “We’ve needed the church here at Good Shepherd for a good 20 years. When I was first here from 1993-1996, we needed a new church then,” said Father O’Neil. “As soon as the church building is complete, we will turn the existing church into the parish offices.”
Gail Barr, a parishioner since 1984, is looking forward to having a church building that can accommodate more parishioners at each Mass. “We have had nine Masses every weekend for as long as I can remember. With our limited seating space, it was the only answer to accommodate our community,” she said. ”We have had to use our Family Center for worship space for one of our Spanish Masses.”
Monica Strerchel, a parishioner since Good Shepherd broke ground for the first church building in the 1950s, describes the groundbreaking as the fulfillment of a dream nearly 60 years in the making. “Much time and many recessions have passed but now our dreams, prayerfully, will be fulfilled,” said Strerchel. “Our sincere appreciation goes to all our former priests and parishioners who continued to work and keep the dream.”
“I think it says a lot about our community, in that building a new church has been a very important goal for us and one that we stuck to,” said Barr. “We’ve saved and saved and now we can build our church and not be in debt for the building.”