Traditional design built overlarge to accommodate Catholic influx.
By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — Area Catholics finally have a real church.
Until Saturday, when the new St. Catherine of Siena Church was dedicated, the building housing the small chapel on West Holding Avenue was maxed out, services routinely spilling into the hallways; some parishioners had to watch mass on TV in the school cafeteria.
No longer. The $10.4 million, 27,200-square-foot church, built right beside the existing 9,200-square-foot building and school, is large enough to seat 1,450, with room for 400 overflow chairs for special services.
“It’s awesome. We’re just so blessed,” said Joanne Dalrymple, a St. Catherine member for eight years. “Just the detail that went into it is incredible. It’s a lot more of a traditional Catholic Church, which is beautiful.”
The church was designed by O’Brien & Keane of Arlington, Va., and the general contractor was Clancy & Theys of Raleigh.
A large crowd gathered for the dedication, including special blessings by Raleigh diocese Bishop Michael Burbidge, easily found seating in the church, with room for more.
“It was an awesome experience to witness the finished product of absolutely comprehensive effort in terms of fundraising, architecture, diligence and every detail. Unbelievable,” said Bill Spendly, a seven-year resident of Wake Forest, who serves the parish as a member of the 4th order of the Knights of Columbus.
The effort Spendly referred to was detailed in a special report from the building committee.
In a letter to parishioners found in the report, senior pastor Father Phillip Tighe noted that non-Catholics contributed $2.1 million or 22 percent of the campaign.
“And the heroic stories of families are numerous,” he wrote. “We have had donors who have lost homes to natural disasters, families who have lost work, individuals who have reached deep down to make personal sacrifices, and even children who have set aside their savings.”
Those efforts will benefit future families of Wake Forest. The growth of the region is attracting Catholic transplants from the northeast and Midwest and there are few Catholic churches to serve them.
The previous St. Catherine building opened in 1997, servicing 450 parish families. A school was added later. That number has expanded to more than 3,100 families, or an estimated 10,600-plus parishioners, requiring multiple services to handle their spiritual needs, and still overwhelming the facility.
The new building is impressive not only for its size and design, which includes high, arched ceilings and a second floor space for chorus and orchestration in the rear, but for the many additional ornate touches.
For instance, a giant cross hangs above the altar, lighted in such a way that there are two shadows representing the thieves crucified on either side of Jesus Christ.
Also found in alcoves around the room are 10 statues carved in wood by Italian artisans, each representing a saint or pope.
The main altar includes marble that matches the carved Reredos altar from the old building — a piece of the Reredos was sent to the studio of Ferdinand Stuflesser, who located both the original quarry and vein of marble used in making the original.
And the stained glass windows in the handicapped accessible confessionals are from the original Stone Church on South Main Street. They had been removed and placed in storage while the parish met in the multipurpose building.
Built for reverence
The dedication ceremony was held at 10 a.m., which included a procession from the old building by the Bishop and other diocese officials in their robes, altar boys and girls and even a group of Hispanic musicians playing guitars.
When they arrived at the new church, a ceremonial handing over of the keys was made to the Bishop by the builder. The Bishop then turned the keys over the Tighe and they entered.
A special two-and-a-half-hour mass followed, with much singing as the church was sacramentally blessed and anointed. Following was a luncheon under tents on the church lawn.
Ten of the Wake Forest Knights of Columbus stood in regalia as ceremonial guards during Saturday’s dedication, one for each statue. Other locals participated in the ceremony; church lay leaders Ed and Salina Gary of Wake Forest brought the oil to the altar for the first time. Ed Gary is on the Wake Forest Planning Board.
And a number of persons were seen in attendance, including Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones and Commissioner Margaret Stinnett, Franklin Academy founder Bob Luddy and Fuquay-Varina Mayor John Byrne, a Wake Forest native, whose father Tommy was mayor here.
Ryan Flood, a parishioner with his wife, Mary, and their eight children, reflected that the traditional design is important, because it will help them “raise their hearts and minds to God.”
“The beauty and reverence and everything I think is just going to help, because this is where it begins each Sunday. We [then] take it out into the world, practice our virtues as best as we can,” he said.
“I was reflecting as they were singing Gloria how many sacraments are going to be celebrated here with the kids and maybe weddings and funerals,” Flood added. “It’s like all just a big rush of wow. We’re very blessed to be here. It’s really overwhelming.”