Building a small addition to the parish hall at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Magnolia can immediately start to make a big impact on ministries for children and young adults, pastor Father Mike Johns said.
The parish in southwest Arkansas was chosen as the 2022-2023 partner for One Church, a diocesan initiative to give a one-time financial boost to a mission or rural church in Arkansas. Immaculate Heart of Mary Church is a growing community, with one Mass in English and one in Spanish every Sunday, plus campus ministry for students attending nearby Southern Arkansas University.
When the church, rectory and parish hall were built in the late 1970s, they never included classrooms, meeting rooms and offices. For 40 years, the parish has taken over space in the rectory and parish hall for temporary classrooms and offices. The director of religious education and secretary don’t have a permanent office where they can plan events for the coming week.
The parish approved a two-phase plan to expand its parish hall with a conference room, two offices, enlarged kitchen and four classrooms. In phase one, the parish hall would become a ministries building, extending it about 1,000 square feet for the conference room and offices. It is estimated to cost at least $350,000.
“The parish has been working on this for years,” said Father Johns, who arrived in Magnolia in January 2020.
About 80 percent of the money is already pledged, making the parish ready for support from One Church to ensure the parish hall expansion can happen soon.
“The main reason we need the larger parish hall is we have a lot of kids,” Father Johns said. “We have a big first Communion class next year. We will have room for first Communion and sacramental prep… Increasing the space will help us build for the future.”
Alma Garcia, director of religious education and campus minister, said, “We have been longing for the parish hall and the offices and to actually have classrooms for the kids. It’s kind of uncomfortable for the teachers and the children. We have dividers to divide up the parish hall into classrooms.”
Former catechist Susan Gosdin said the temporary classrooms have made it impossible to enrich religious education lessons with bulletin boards and displays.
“When I was teaching CCD, we were in little pockets in the church and a couple of rooms in the parish hall. We had a group in the rectory conference room and then a group on the floor in his living room. We had to pack everything back up and put it away and bring it in and out.”
Father Johns said supporters of One Church also could help the parish with building and landscaping a playground to replace one that was in disrepair and removed.
“With so many kids, it was popular,” he said.
Garcia, who moved to Magnolia four years ago from New York, said, “The advantage of being in such a small community is that everybody knows everybody. People are really open to helping each other when we need to, like these kinds of things.”
For more information or to donate to One Church, visit dolr.org/one-church.
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