by: Dominick Cross, The Advertiser
For parishioners of St. Pius X Catholic Church, Palm Sunday took on an additional air of promise to come as it celebrated the groundbreaking on its new church at 600 Kaliste Saloom Road.
Scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2017, the church will be a 31,141-square-foot structure with 1,925 square feet of covered areas on its exterior for inclement weather. The new church will have seating for 900, compared with the current capacity of 520.
Although not a new parish, St. Pius’ new church building will be the first Catholic Church to be constructed in Lafayette since 1999 when St. Elizabeth Seton was built.
The current church at 201 E. Bayou Parkway was built in 1975.
The groundbreaking represents the final phase of its campaign, “Building the Faith in Acadiana: Body and Soul, Bricks and Mortar,” that began in 2008. A matching gift by The Stuller Family Foundation helped parishioners surpass the campaign’s challenge goal of $5.4 million, raising $6,517,774 by the end of the campaign.
“I have been deeply touched by witnessing God’s hands joined with the hands of everyone involved with bringing this project towards fruition. The project, whose initial planning stages began at the heels of a recession, can now help to fuel the economy and provide jobs to workers from the various industries needed to complete this type of project,” said the Rev. Steven C. LeBlanc. “Additionally, it will provide a place of worship for St. Pius’ growing population and much needed space for ministries to provide outreach to those in need or spiritual development opportunities for its members.”
Using traditional design elements while reflecting the liturgy as envisioned by the Second Vatican Council, the new church’s design will feature both French and Spanish architecture to represent the Acadian ancestry of the region.
Additional features include a large gathering area to provide a more welcoming entrance environment that can also be used for ministry communications, displays and other reading material; a practice area for the choir that will double as a bride’s room for weddings; a cry room and a room for child care; a room for the Children’s Church Program that can also accommodate the RCIA group; restroom facilities; and an adoration chapel offering 24-hour access with its own restroom facilities.
The project is estimated to cost $19 million and will Include a new church building, the purchase and demolition of property, additional office space and parking. Included in this figure are $14.3 million for construction costs, $1.2 million for liturgical appointments, $360,000 for an organ, as well as the purchase of land and other items.
“It is my hope that once this project is completed, and stands erected as a fresh and new symbol of Faith in Acadiana,” said LeBlanc. “That it will not only mark a new beginning in the history of St. Pius X, but for anyone wanting to return to the Church to seek comfort and protection from the concerns of everyday life.”
In the past 15 years, the growth of St. Pius X’s parish population and the city’s population within the Church’s geographical boundaries has been so substantial that there were discussions about whether or not the Diocese would consider opening a separate parish nearby.
Due to a shortage of available clergy and the preference of the bishop, those plans were dismissed.
St. Pius X began as a Mission of Our Lady of Fatima with its first Mass held in a Verot School Road warehouse equipped with a portable hand-built altar and removable chairs. Its first 30-foot-by-60-foot cement block church was constructed in 1960 on East Bayou Parkway and now houses classrooms of St. Pius Elementary School, which was added in 2000.