Catholics meet in high school cafeteria while their new church is being built Outdoor Mass at site is planned

October 01, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

They don't carry tools or bricks, but members of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Mission in Columbia manage to "build a church every Sunday," says the Rev. John F. Kinsella.

The mission's 450 families meet inside Atholton High School's cafeteria on Freetown Road for Sunday services, where they hang crosses and banners and set up an altar to create a church-like feeling for their worship service.

"It's a little tough praying in a high school cafeteria, with cold french fries on the floor, and a Dr Pepper soda machine," said Father Kinsella, whose parish celebrates its fifth anniversary at a special Mass tomorrow.

That should all change by the spring of 1996, when parishioners hope to begin meeting in their own $1.85 million, 600-seat church on Route 216, near Route 29, on a horse farm in Fulton.

Many members of the congregation will get their first glimpse of the project tomorrow, at the 5 p.m. picnic-style Mass and blessing of the 12.5-acre site, which was purchased with help from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Three hundred people are expected to bring blankets and folding chairs for the celebration, which also will observe the Feast of St. Francis.

If it rains, the outdoor Mass will be held Oct. 9.

"Most of the people have never seen the land," Father Kinsella said. "It's a celebration of how far we've come, and it gives the people a sense of hope."

The Archdiocese of Baltimore established the mission on Oct. 1, 1988, initially attracting about 80 families, who met in the homes of members.

Originally, the mission rented an office in the Kings Contrivance Shopping Center, which also had a small chapel. In April 1992, the mission moved into the Parish Center on Guilford Road in Kings Contrivance, where it retains an office and a small chapel.

But the congregation has always met at Atholton High.

Members chose not to become part of Columbia's interfaith centers because the centers were filled and because members wanted to remain independent, Father Kinsella said.

Father Kinsella said the congregation's willingness to tolerate the moves and other inconveniences demonstrates "a lot of faith. . . . We want our own home, our own church."

Parishioners already have pledged $550,000 toward the project, which is expected to break ground in June 1995.

Until the church is completed, parishioners will continue to meet at the high school for Sunday services, where the parish pays at least $12,000 annually for rent, and at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fulton for Saturday services, where it meets for free.

Daily Masses, meanwhile, will continue to be held at the Parish Center on Guilford Road.

Once the church is completed, the mission's leaders anticipate rapid growth, Father Kinsella said. "We're very optimistic about the future."

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