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St. Bernadette Parish breaks ground on new church

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Wednesday, April 13, 2008

By David Eck

ST. MARTIN DEANERY — As parishioners at St. Bernadette Parish broke ground for a new church on a recent chilly afternoon, Dottie Mager felt like crying.

Parishioners at St. Bernadette Parish in Amelia participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new church at the parish east of Cincinnati. (CT/David Eck)

“It seems like we’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting,” said Mager, who joined the parish in 1947 as a grade-school student. “Everybody’s really excited.

The parish, which dates to 1944, has been using a church originally built as temporary worship space after the parish’s founding. For decades parishioners have been praying and working for a new church — only to face obstacles.

In 2002 a major capital campaign raised about $1.1 million, but the parish’s request to build a new church was denied because of financial concerns, said Father William Stockelman, the pastor. The parish continued raising funds over the next several years and now has $1.8 million in cash to cover the construction.

The archdiocese approved the plan last November, and parishioners should be in their new church this Christmas.

Prayer was a large part of the effort, Father Stockelman said. Since 2007 the parish has said a special prayer to St. Bernadette at all Masses. Parishioners have also said the prayer — written by Father Stockelman — in their homes.

“It’s been literally 60 years the parish has been waiting for this day,” Father Stockelman said. “They’ve been disappointed for many years. It was a great letdown in 2003 when they were told they couldn’t build a church.”

The current church seats about 140 and is overcrowded. The parish also celebrates Mass in a parish hall using folding chairs.

“It’s hard to pray in a gym,” Father Stockelman said, “so we’re looking forward to being in a real church.”

Father William Stockelman, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish, leads the parishioners in prayer during the groundbreaking ceremonies. (CT/David Eck)

The new church will seat 500 and feature a worship space, gathering space, multipurpose area and eucharistic chapel. It will be a single-story, brick building.

The cramped conditions of the older church have caused some younger parishioners to get married in other, larger churches, and some parishioners attend Mass elsewhere because of the conditions and the Mass in the center.

The parish in Amelia, east of Cincinnati, now has about 700 families, and is growing, Father Stockelman said.

“It’s pretty much impossible to have room for our own people, much less room for others,” he said. “We feel greatly blessed.”

In the lot for the new church, more than 150 parishioners holding shovels stood along a gravel path outlining the footprint of the new building. Amid a biting wind they prayed and sang.

“We did it,” the priest shouted through a bullhorn. “Nothing can ruin this day. This is our moment. We are going to celebrate it together.”

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