Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Scaling back, moving forward
Scaling back, moving forward BY JOAN KERN, Correspondent
The same month St. John Neumann Church kicked off a $13.6 million capital campaign to build the Blessed John XXIII Religious Education Center, the stock market tanked.
So the Manheim Township congregation scaled back its plans.
The second phase of the project -- a 60,000-square-foot addition that would replace St. Anne Catholic School and serve the parish and community -- has been put on hold indefinitely.
Instead, the church at 601 E. Delp Road plans to break ground for the first phase of the project this spring.
The $2.5 million center will house a multipurpose room to serve as a gymnasium and a parish hall, a large kitchen and a few classrooms.
St. Anne Catholic School has held preschool classes at St. John Neumann for about 15 years. The classes, with about 30 students enrolled this year, will continue at the center.
The building will be built on property behind the church next to an orchard and below Landis Woods.
"It's our field of dreams," Monsignor Richard A. Youtz, St. John Neumann pastor, said.
"We're very tight for space," Youtz said. "We have about 2,400 families and not enough meeting space, and we try to be open to community organizations, such as Scouts.
"If we're going to fulfill the mission of the church -- teaching the faith -- we need more room," he said. "This will help us create community, to reach out to people."
St. John Neumann, in the third year of a three-year capital campaign, has raised $2 million for the center. It is scheduled for completion in about eight months.
Angela Richards, who chairs St. John Neumann's evangelistic committee and is a co-chair for the capital campaign, hopes the first phase of the project will generate enthusiasm for the second phase.
Richards, a member of St. John for 15 years, grew up in Bronx, N.Y.
"I had 16 years of Catholic education," she said. "I had religious education classes every day. I have taught religious education classes since my son (now 21) was in school. There's no substitute for a Catholic education."
The second phase of the project includes 26 classrooms, a library and a computer lab in a three-story wing and a one-story gymnasium.
St. Anne Catholic School would move into the building, which would be twice as large as its current location at 929 N. Duke St.
The building also would serve the parish and community when the school is not in session.
"I don't expect to be around to see it," said Youtz, a Lancaster city native who is scheduled to retire next spring at the mandatory age of 75.
"One person sows, the next person reaps," he said.
The Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, former bishop of the Harrisburg Diocese of the Catholic Church, approved the original project in 2008.
The Most Rev. Joseph P. McFadden, the current bishop, said in a phone interview that he's very excited about the new construction at St. John.
"It shows growth and vitality, and that's always exciting," he said. "It means their community is prospering and growing. Also, we hope one day they can expand to a parish school. We're very committed to education."
McFadden, in his first year of a three-year term as chair of the Committee on Catholic Education for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said one of the challenges the committee faces is convincing the U.S. government that parents have the right to pick where their school tax dollars go.
"The country has changed so much," he said. "Back in the beginning of the 20th century there was prayer in school and Bible reading. Now the religion in public schools is secular humanism. Our religious rights are being violated."
Youtz, who served from 2002 to 2005 as pastor of both St. John and St. Anne churches and was executive director of the St. Anne school until this year, said the city church signed on to the project because it has "no room to expand and very limited space for recreation."
"They've been part of the process the whole time," he said.
Christine Whalen, chair of St. Anne's parish council, said until the school moves, St. Anne will happily continue to care for the students.
"We're glad to have the school as a part of our mission, and we embrace having the children and their families in our presence," she said.
Whalen said St. Anne is considering some improvements that will be done "little by little, so the children have the school they deserve." They include upgrading the heating, ventilation and air conditioning and the bathrooms and replacing windows.
"They need to be done either way," Whalen said.
The school serves about 235 students in prekindergarten to eighth grade, with about equal numbers from St. Anne -- St. John's mother church -- and St. John, along with some students from other parishes.
Youtz, who was ordained in 1966 and has served St. John Neumann since 1994, said the center will be named for Blessed John XXIII, who served as pope from 1958 to 1963.
"He has been beatified and is on the road to sainthood," Youtz said.
nSt. John Neumann Church to break ground in spring for $2.5 million center after plans for $13.6 million project put on hold due to economy.