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From the Back Pew: Reaching out through remodeling

November 24, 2010|By Michael J. Arvizu

Anytime a parish or church begins the process of remodeling its facilities, it piques my interest.

What will the architect come up with? What will the new facilities look like? And most importantly, how will these new buildings help the church or parish spread its message across its community?

It has always been the norm, at least to me, to consider church buildings as an extension of a church's overall mission. The buildings themselves don't make up the church. The people inside them do.

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Consider St. Finbar's Catholic Church in Burbank, where this Thanksgiving, the church will open up its new kitchen facilities for the first time for the parish's annual Thanksgiving dinner, set for noon to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, where roughly 300 meals are expected to be served.

According to St. Finbar Deacon Frank Kolbash, the kitchen resides in the church's new community center, which was dedicated in June. The community center was built after the old parish hall was torn down. The old parish hall was the first church when the parish was founded in the 1938, said Kolbash.

The new community center is part of what Kolbash calls the "revitalization" of the parish. According to its website, St. Finbar is remodeling its facilities in a project dubbed The Keystone Plan (named after the church's cross-street, Keystone Street). The Keystone Plan is said to be the largest construction project at the church in 60 years.

Sure, the project will see the rise of shiny new buildings, no doubt increasing the church's property values. So why is building buildings important? Why is the Keystone Project relevant to St. Finbar now?

Well, for one thing, the parish hopes to bring in new people, which Kolbash says St. Finbar's is seeing more of in its weekly Masses. These new people include Catholics who have left the church and are looking to return, he said. The facilities that will open at St. Finbar, including a new youth center at its former convent across the street and a daycare or classroom facility next door, will help the church reach out to these individuals.

"The thing that we are trying to instill on everyone is that it's more than just going to Mass on Sunday," said Kolbash. "It's a seven-day-a-week job. That's part of this revitalization. It's to get people to know that when they leave Mass on Sunday, we are sending them out to spread the message of God."

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