Several coordinators of youth ministry along with Kevin Bohli, Director of the Office of Youth Ministry of Arlington, held their third Deanery meeting of the year today at St. Francis de Sales in Purcellville VA. The first two were held at St. Joseph in Herndon and Christ the Redeemer in Sterling, respectively. Youth Ministers from St. John Neumann and St. Thomas a Becket in Reston, and Christ the Redeemer were also present.
The group met with Rev. Ronald S. Escalante, pastor and took a hard hat tour of the new facilities under construction. The new building is expected to open mid-June. Pavers and contractors were busy completing work on this two-story structure that will provide 11 large classrooms, religious education and youth ministry offices and space, a gymnasium/community hall and events kitchen. The structure sits on approximately 22 acres of parish land that is surrounded by another 8 acres of privately owned, undeveloped forest. Fr. Escalante repeatedly joked about how he was able to get permission to go out and hunt on these properties on either side of the church.
In addition to the new indoor facilities, there are plans for an outdoor patio and recreational space complete with fire pit and barbecue area. This would serve a myriad of parish and youth events as well as be useable space for wedding receptions. For many years the parish has had to rent space at area high schools for its elementary and middle school religious education programs and youth ministry. The seating capacity of the gymnasium quadruples the size of the current church worship area and the classroom sizes range from a minimum capacity of 30 to 50 people with ample room for tables and chairs.
Each room is being outfitted with dedicated monitors and multimedia audio and visual capabilities. Fr. Escalante's plans are meant to cover the various needs of the parish from Religious Education and Youth Ministry to adult faith formation. This $8 million project broke ground in December 2013, but had been part of a 5 year vision of the pastor. Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington also has plans to come and dedicate the space in September.
After the tour, Jane Treado, Director of Youth for the parish, took the group on a short walk to the end of the property to view the Resurrection Cross called "Crux Gloria" created by artist Tomás José Fernández in the 1990s. Fernández had a dream in which he received detailed instructions on how to build this 33 foot tall work of steel. This "hollow" cross has a human figure cut out of its front and is illuminated from within. The intensity of the illumination varies with the time of day and season. It is visible from Route 7 to passersby and has served to attract visitors to the parish.
The day ended with informal talks over lunch in downtown Purcellville at Magnolia's. Topics ranged from evaluations of the most recent BASH event for Junior High students, suggestions for social events venues for youth ministers and their families/spouses, upcoming WorkCamp activities, plans for World Youth Day in Poland in 2016 and also possible plans to attend the 2015 Papal visit in Philadelphia.
Kevin Bohli also brought up plans to reinvigorate CYO activities in the diocese, noting that sports are often an activity that forces parents and youth to compete with participation in youth ministry. Priority is often given to sports because of the possibilities it represents for scholarships and also for the more general importance of teamwork and building of character. However, with such a slim percentage of scholarships for the truly exceptional athletes and the fact that many parents and coaches do not demonstrate the same type of good character during games, it might be more practical and honest for catholic parents and youth to consider examining those realities and channeling those energies into CYO events. Kevin also mentioned plans to look into providing more for special needs youth since there isn't a clear way to minister to this growing number of people in the diocese.
It was a good time for Deanery III ministers working at various parishes to gather together since the last meeting took place in Advent. Several First Communion celebrations and some Confirmation celebrations and retreats have taken place since then. There have also been some new hires and new vacancies in the Deanery as well. There are plans to return to St. Francis de Sales once the new building is complete. Perhaps some diocesan events like BASH might also take place there in the future.