Mother’s Day marked a milestone for the St. Augustine Catholic Church, Napoleon, congregation as Most Rev. Daniel Thomas, Bishop of the Toledo Diocese, oversaw a local confirmation and blessed and dedicated the St. Augustine Ministry Center and Parish Offices.

A lot adjacent to the church and school building previously featured mobile units, but these have been cleared to provide a full-featured building for the church, school and community.

The construction of the building was put into motion in November, which is when the parish office temporarily relocated to its downtown space.

Father J. Douglas Garand had previously noted more than five years of effort have been placed behind this project, and, on Sunday, people were able to walk into a fully-realized building.

Attendees were able to tour the completed building, and a ceremony was led Sunday afternoon by Thomas.

“Thanks so much for your presence,” he told those who had gathered. “I said to Father Garand, I’m delighted to have been with you throughout the inception of this. The thought that it could happen — the raising of money, and the planning, and now the reality of it. What a great blessing. So I’m delighted to be able to bless the new St. Augustine Center.

“I’m thrilled you’re able to be present, because it’s really a historic moment, isn’t it, for the parish? And to be able to celebrate this blessing,” Thomas continued. “Sadly, again, though it is pouring rain outside, our spirits are not dampened in any way. Thanks be to God.”

The ceremony included Thomas sprinkling holy water inside the individual rooms of the center. This includes three key rooms — the main St. Monica Room, the St. Anthony Room and the St. Ambrose Room.

St. Monica was the mother of St. Augustine and will be used for meetings for youth ministry, along with other events. St. Anthony was a hermit and monk in the desert who influenced the theology of St. Augustine, and St. Ambrose was the bishop of Milan who baptized St. Augustine. These two smaller rooms intended for gatherings adjoin the St. Monica Room.

Plans for the meeting rooms include providing space for the school, finance and pastoral councils, as well youth group meetings and activities. The St. Monica Room was previously reported to be 30’ by 30’ and includes a clear second story for the purpose of featuring windows to allow as much light as possible into the room.

Another key benefit to the expanded space is in providing a separate location for the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry in the back of the building. The center also includes space for the parish offices, along with a kitchen and restroom facilities.

Napoleon Mayor Jason Maassel also spoke at the ceremony to issue a proclamation.

Maassel said St. Augustine Catholic Church was founded in 1845 with the current church built in 1883, making it “one of the strong pillars of our community.”

“I proclaim Sunday, May 9, 2021, as St. Augustine Ministry Center Day in Napoleon, Ohio, and extend congratulations and best wishes to the past and present members of this congregation that have worked so faithfully and given so generously to make their dream of this new building become a reality,” Maassel read from the proclamation.

Following the ceremony, Thomas made comments on being able to visit Napoleon to see the completion of the center.

“One of the best things that a bishop can do is to be with his people. Because, as Pope Francis says, ‘The shepherd should have the smell of his sheep,’” Thomas said. “So, as a shepherd, it’s wonderful to me to be with the sheep, and, of course, to come to St. Augustine in Napoleon to celebrate the sixth Sunday of Easter, to celebrate Confirmation for the young people and also to celebrate the blessing of this new building.

“I told Father Garand I was so pleased because from the very inception of the thought of the building, I was in the trailers when they were here,” Thomas continued. “And I’m so proud of the people, because this is a great accomplishment. This is a sign of their faith, of their generosity and of their commitment, and I think this building will serve St. Augustine parish far into the future.”

Thomas also touched on the fact the center not only serves St. Augustine, but also the community as a whole.

“I think first it serves the community in the beautification of the property. So even the property itself gets beautified, and I think the community benefits from that,” he said. “Beyond that, of course, as Catholics, we work together with the whole community in so many various ways. One of the greatest ways the community benefits is directly from St. Vincent De Paul Outreach for the Poor, which is an outreach directly from this building. So I think that would be the first community benefit. And then I know father and other members of the community will benefit from gathering here for different events as well.”

Thomas added he was pleased with how the final product looks.

“Before I even got into it, I said how handsome it was from the outside,” he said. “And I didn’t know — I thought this might be a second floor (noting the windows at the top of the structure). I didn’t realize that it was the lighting for this sort of grand central room. So I think it’s a phenomenal space because it incorporates the parish offices, and then it draws the parish together. This is going to be used in any number of ways for parish and community. So I think it’s great, it’s handsome, and it’s very, very updated. I think it has all of the proper security, and I think the grey (of the interior) is fantastic.”

Garand also said he was happy with the results, noting the work it took to get to this point.

“I’m very pleased. I’m proud of the building, I’m proud of the work of our people that were so generous and came forward to make this possible,” he said. “I don’t think people realize how much planning, how much thought, how many meetings, and how much of a process this actually is and how many years it took to make this happen. People have been patient, and people have really stepped forward to make this happen. I’m very grateful for their generosity and their enthusiasm to provide a center for ministry for our parish and outreach through St. Vincent De Paul, so that we can really do what we’re supposed to do as a church.”

Thomas also noted the project is also key to the future of the congregation.

“To add how grateful I am, and how proud I am of Father Doug Garand and the parish community, because this parish is historic as we heard from the mayor, and for keeping this parish not only in the present, but pushing it into the future through their good work, generosity and Catholic vibrant witness,” he said. “So I’m very proud of father and the whole community.”

Garand also made note of the fine details that went into crafting this project.

“The vision was, when you look at the outside of the building, this property will mirror the other buildings on our property. So, it looks like it belongs to the church,” he said.

“Someone who is not Catholic told a parishioner, ‘I didn’t know what that building was and then I was driving through and I saw, well, it looks just like St. Augustine,’” explained Garand. “It’s got the Gothic windows, it’s got the red brick, it’s got the stone base. Someone who has no connection to the parish knew that this building was for St. Augustine. I think that part of the design speaks volumes that someone who is not part of the parish could drive by and say, ‘Oh, I know that building belongs to St. Augustine.’”

Garand said there were challenges to the project, and was relieved it all came together.

“Working to get some of the details down, the stone wasn’t easy to get. We had to go through a couple of different processes of picking the brick to make sure it matched,” he said. “The one company in Maryland went out of business after we picked the brick and then we had to pick another brick. So it was working to making sure what you see here connects to what we have with the church, but the school has that stone base with the red brick as well. All of our buildings are harmonious and forms a campus.”

Garand added a parishioner has donated $6,000 for exterior light fixtures on the buildings that face streets to tie those together as well.

“There are lots of details, things you don’t think about, and you have to make 100 decisions in a day sometimes,” he said. “It can be stressful, but it really came together well. I’m very proud of it too.”

Overall, Garand reported the project came in on budget, which was projected at $1.1 million. He said the work has come alongside other updates to the school’s roof, and the congregation will start looking at projects for the church such as interior painting and updating the lift to an elevator for more accessibility.

“We want to take stock right now and make prudent improvements,” Garand said.

Noting the celebrations the church was able to witness Sunday, Thomas commented on the ability for the congregation to come together.

“It’s important to say, even with continued restrictions for COVID-19 — as we’ve tried to be very practical and safe for everyone — even with those restrictions, we’re able to celebrate a beautiful ceremony, a beautiful confirmation, Easter Sunday Mass and a beautiful blessing of this building, to be together in a safe way,” he said.

Garand also gave his thanks to those attending for making the project a reality.

“It happened because of you and your generosity,” he said. “Thank God for the gift of your faith and your gifts that made this possible. May God bless you for your generosity, and thanks for all your hard work.”

Garand again reminded those in attendance of his arrival at St. Augustine Catholic Church, noting his personal meetings with the congregation members.

“We’ve been working on this for years,” he said. “Within the first few months of arrival, we met with everyone in their homes, and, what did everyone say, what was the number-one thing?”

A call of “Get rid of the trailers!” was heard from a member in attendance.

”We finally did it,” Garand said.

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