Augustine Hall will be blessed on June 16

Augustine Hall at the corner of Hill and Preston streets, has gone through trials and tribulations — including a fire in 2008 — but is now open as a recovery center for men who are in the process of conquering their drug or alcohol dependency. The center will be blessed by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz at a ceremony to be held at noon on June 16. (Record Photo by Glenn Rutherford)

Record Editor

With the help of steely perseverance — and the aid of the Holy Spirit — Deacon Keith L. McKenzie stands ready to see his life-long dream come alive.

Augustine Hall — a 4,000-square-foot shelter and recovery center for men fighting alcohol or drug dependency — has had more stops and starts than a city bus. But come noon on June 16, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will conduct a blessing ceremony for the facility, and afterward Deacon Mc-Kenzie and others will celebrate the moment with an open house and tour of the facility at Preston and Hill streets.

Augustine Hall’s history includes a litany of growing pains, with a major disaster thrown into the middle.

Deacon McKenzie

Deacon McKenzie, who serves at St. Augustine Church and heads the Greater Louisville Counseling Center, began working to build the hall — “the dream of my lifetime,” he says — back in 2005. In 2007, thanks to lots of work he’d done on his own, and with the help of donations and volunteers — especially his fellow deacons, he had the center almost ready to go.

An April 2007 story in The Record chronicled efforts to get Augustine Hall up and running, and by the end of that year the facility was nearly complete.

Then there was a fire.

Just a couple of weeks after the newspaper story, fire — which probably began in the building’s electrical system — raced through the hall destroying the living quarters for 10 recovering men, and seriously depressing the hopes of the man who’d spent those years trying to get Augustine Hall up and running.

“I was devastated,” Deacon McKenzie recalled last week during a tour of the facility.

“I was probably clinically depressed,” he admitted. “But then my faith kicked in.

And really, the whole story about all of this coming together and getting done is about the work of the Holy Spirit. No way this happens without the Spirit’s guidance and encouragement.”

And no way it happens without the help of Deacon McKenzie’s friends within the Diaconate of the Archdiocese of Louisville. “Especially Deacon Aurelio Puga, who knows a lot about building and construction,” said Deacon McKenzie. “We’d work hard for a few weeks and then run out of money or donations. Then our faith would kick in again and something would turn up — a donation of materials or a bit of money, and we’d get back to work.”

The fruition of all that work is a spic-and-span building that can house ten men, men who have faced their demons of alcohol or drug dependency and who are working to again find their place as constructive members of society.

“This isn’t meant to be a place where people come to stay,” the deacon explained. “It’s a place where they can come after going through a treatment program; a place where they can feel safe and secure and spend three to six months finding work and getting their lives going again.”

Deacon McKenzie and his wife, Cathy, did much of the work themselves, along with the help of Deacon Puga and other friends. And along the way, Deacon McKenzie said, he’s learned how to do things he would never have attempted before.

“I knew very little, nothing really, about building something, about doing this kind of work,” he said. “But I learned. And without doing much of the work ourselves — and by that I mean ourselves and our friends — this could not have been accomplished. Donations alone could not have made this facility a reality, though make no mistake we love and are grateful for every donation we received.”

Augustine Hall has actually had a couple of residents for the past few weeks, but Deacon McKenzie is excited about the official blessing service to be held June 16.

“The blessing ceremony is so important to me, because we all want this to be a spiritual, a holy place,” he said. “So with the help of the archbishop, we will dedicate this space to the glory of God, and when they see Augustine Hall, people will know that it was produced by Christ and the Holy Spirit.”

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