THE VILLAGE — As dusk settles over St. Eugene Catholic Church, its new dome shines as a beacon in the encroaching darkness. It represents a message of hope like the one the parish wants to share with the surrounding community.
The light from the dome — switched on a few weeks ago — also signals a six-year $7.1 million project to construct a new church at 2400 W Hefner Road is coming to an end. The Rev. Joseph Jacobi, pastor, said dedication for the 18,800-square-foot structure is set for Friday.
The complex building process has benefited the parish, he said.
“We have a beautiful place to worship, and we've grown in unity,” Jacobi said. “It's the image of the living stones.”
The priest and members of the parish's design committee said church members had been praying a specially created prayer for the new building since 2004. Project committees were formed in 2006, and a capital campaign was begun in fall 2008. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in 2010.
Jacobi said he and parishioners had hoped to hold Easter Sunday services in the new building but that did not pan out. The days since Easter have let crews put finishing touches on the structure.
Jacobi said the time also will allow the parish to say goodbye to the building that wasn't meant to be the church's long-term sanctuary but fulfilled that purpose many years. He said he will conduct prayer services in the older sanctuary informally titled “Saying Goodbye to a Sacred Space” in the four days leading to the dedication.
Jacobi said the existing building was constructed as a parish hall and gymnasium and was intended only as a temporary site for worship services. Instead, because of a fire and changing priorities in the 1990s, the parish built a new school, and the church building project was tabled.
The new structure is east of the current church building, and they will be connected by a hallway. Church design committee members said the older structure will be used as a parish hall for meetings and wedding gatherings.
The new building includes a sanctuary that will seat 800 people and an additional 250 in an overflow area. The current sanctuary seats 425 to 475 people. The larger sanctuary means the church will be able to decrease its Masses from five to four starting April 22.
“We've probably added 10 years to Father's life,” Chuck Duginski, design team co-chairman, said of Jacobi, smiling.
During a recent tour of the building, crews were busy completing internal work on the dome built over the altar area and the permanent baptismal font. The building also includes new restrooms, a bridal room and gathering area.
Ann Codding, design committee co-chairman, said committee members and others overseeing the project are excited to see it come to fruition. She said her grandson will be baptized in the church.
Codding said the arrival of a statue of Jesus that will hang on the crucifix in the church provided special moments Good Friday. She said the design committee exchanged emails for many months with an Italian sculptor who created works of art for the church.
“That was the ‘wow' moment,” Bob Rapp, construction committee chairman, said of the uncrating of the statues.
Design committee member Judi Wilkinson agreed. “It was a very moving moment.”
Duginski said the church building will include 33 stained-glass windows.
He said the windows are still being designed, and the church hopes to have them installed later this year.
He echoed Jacobi's sentiments that the church body grew in unity as the project progressed. He pointed out that the church's fundraising efforts began during an economic recession.
“We learned so much about who we are as a parish — the discussions that we had, the ability that we had, the resources we had,” Duginski said. “We had an incredible amount of generosity in the parish. It was the worst time for fundraising, but you can see God's plan.”
Committee members said the new building and dome with a cross on top have helped increase the church's visibility on Hefner Road.
Design committee member Mary Ann Tomlinson said the entire parish can take ownership of the new structure.
“It's been a big part of our lives for six years,” she said of the project.