Groundbreaking was conducted recently at the site of the former Swank building on Granville Street in Newark for the new Faith and Family Center at St. Francis de Sales parish.
(Photo: Courtesy of Joanne Breitmayer)
NEWARK – As the last day of school for 2018-19 ended at St. Francis de Sales on Granville Street in Newark, a new day was dawning for the Catholic parish.
"We did a tear-out in the building (the Parish Lamy Center and School) and started construction," St. Francis director of accounting and development Margaret Wright said as the $3 million expansion project began for the 178-year-old parish. "It’s exciting. There’s a big push to get the Johnson Hall renovations done before school starts."
Groundbreaking was also conducted recently for the new 6,503-square-foot Faith and Family Center, to be located across the street from the church and school on the site of the former Swank building. It will house additional meeting rooms, offices and an auxiliary worship and conference room with a warming kitchen.
"The Swank family came and toured the building before it was torn down," Wright said. "We just finished filling in the hole."
There are three phases to the project, the first two of which will be paid for with a $2 million donation from a Catholic who does not wish to be named. The remaining $1 million will be raised by the parish to alleviate the maintenance issues that have mounted over the years.
While the Faith and Family Center is Phase 1, Phase 2 is the renovation of the Parish Lamy Center and School. It will include a 250-person hall with a commercial kitchen to serve as a school cafeteria during the day. During the evening and weekends, it can be used by the parish for its faith formation and community activities, as well as additional storage space.
"The Johnson Hall and cafeteria area were pretty antiquated," Wright said. "We’ll have a new library, meeting spaces, atrium, new art room, new music room and two new classrooms. The social hall will be bigger and the kitchen area will be much bigger.
"The library and two classrooms will be upstairs. There will be a lot of windows up there. It will be full of sunshine."
Phase 3 will deal with ongoing maintenance for the parish, which started in 1842. "We will set aside $300,000 in a reserve maintenance fund," said State Farm Insurance agent Tony Adams, fundraising co-chairman.
"Fundraising is exactly where we expected it to be," Wright said. "We’re ready to head into the major phase of the campaign, which will go until the end of August. Then, we’ll launch into the whole push."
Growth of both the church and the school has made the expansion necessary. As of February, St. Francis had 300 more people attending Mass each weekend than just a year and a half earlier. There were 132 new families that joined the parish, plus 59 new enrollments during the 2018-19 school year. Parish staff increased from nine to 24. Father David Sizemore arrived as pastor in 2017 and met with parishioners in their homes to see what needed to be done now and in the future.
Wright said St. Francis School is already near last year’s enrollment for 2020-21, "and we’ve never had that happen before," she said. "Last year’s 8th grade class, of 38 students, was a large class, and we’ve already made up for those numbers. Last year, we started with 252 total students and ended at 270, which is a good sign."
The preschool, which uses the Montessori Method of Education, continues to grow and still has some slots open for the fall.
"It makes them well-prepared for primary school," Father Sizemore said. "Getting ready for more growth will also affect Newark Catholic down the road."
"We’ve been incredibly blessed with how things are going," Wright said.