St. Margaret Church dedicates St. Mary Magdalen Mission Center Bel Air building to house services, religious training

April 13, 1997|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,SUN STAFF

St. Margaret Church of Bel Air, the largest parish in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, dedicated a new $2 million worship and study center yesterday, celebrating with song and prayer the devotion of its overflowing population.

With about 600 parishioners present, Cardinal William H. Keeler presided yesterday over a Mass to bless the new building on Route 22, called St. Mary Magdalen Mission Center. It is designed for church services, religious training for high school students, receptions and other events.

The dedication was not meant strictly to consecrate the simple, oval-shaped brick structure, but to bless the "gathering of people who are the church," said the Rev. Thomas Malia, a parish priest. "When we are blessing the room with holy water, we want to remember our own baptisms."

Given the size of the parish, some might be surprised at the decision to build an intimate gathering place rather than a giant church. Cost was a factor, but some in the parish also felt that soaring space might be impersonal, Malia said. The award-winning design by architect Ziger/Snead reflects the parish's "instant intimacy," he said.

The St. Margaret congregation has grown from 2,700 families in 1987 to more than 4,700 families today, said the Rev. Francis X. Callahan, pastor. The church added a multipurpose meeting space, a preschool and an administrative office in 1995 as part of the same $3.5 million development campaign used to fund the center, Callahan said.

Weekend services have been divided, with groups worshiping on Sundays at the church on Hickory Avenue and at John Carroll Catholic High School a mile away. Additional services are held Saturdays.

He called parishioners' generosity an investment in St. Margaret's next generation: the children of young adults whose migration to Harford County from Baltimore and other Northeastern cities began in the 1970s.

Pub Date: 4/13/97

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