By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor
Water from three rivers that flow through the Archdiocese of Louisville — the Cumberland, the Green and the Ohio — were blended together in the baptismal font of Holy Family Church Oct. 28 as a symbol of the unity of the archdiocese’s 24 counties.
The water was blessed by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and then carried across the church parking lot to the lobby of the new Archdiocese of Louisville Pastoral Center at 3940 Poplar Level Road.
About 200 people filled the lobby’s three-story atrium to take part in the blessing and tour the new hub of the archdiocese’s agencies and offices.
The $6 million facility, located in the heart of the Camp Taylor neighborhood, was completed in early September. It married the former Holy Family School building with new construction to create more than 50 offices, five conference rooms with large flat-screen TVs, three smaller meeting rooms and some amenities, such as a large staff lounge, a balcony, a patio and a nursing mother’s room.
During a program in the church prior to the blessing, Archbishop Kurtz prayed, “May the ministries and services offered here (in the Pastoral Center) fulfill our mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
In an interview last week, the archbishop expanded on this theme, noting that “we are not a business” and the Pastoral Center’s name speaks to the mission of the building — to provide pastoral care.
“We have to treat elements like any business would,” he said, “but we are about building up the kingdom of God. The spiritual dimension is the most important dimension.”
Saturday’s program included several speakers, including Mayor Greg Fischer, who called the Pastoral Center a “magnificent project” that blends the old — Holy Family School — with the new and marries the traditional work of the church with new efforts to care for creation, as evidenced in the building’s eco-friendly features.
The mayor also offered his gratitude to the people of the Archdiocese of Louisville for their efforts to “create a more compassionate community.” In particular he praised the “phenomenal, phenomenal work” of Catholic Charities, which has helped form a global community in Louisville through its refugee resettlement program, he said.
Rep. Jim Wayne, who represents the Camp Taylor area in the Kentucky General Assembly, noted that the neighborhood has a rich history dating to the first World War, when the camp was established for Army personnel.
He expressed gratitude that the archdiocese chose to invest itself the neighborhood.
“This neighborhood is always in transition,” he said. “A lot of the neighbors are very fragile financially. … We hope this is going to be the beginning of a relationship with the Camp Taylor community.”
An open house after the blessing drew hundreds of curious Catholics and neighbors, who wandered around the new facility and spoke to staff members. Former Holy Family School students and staff were especially interested to see if they could still recognize their beloved school within the walls of the new building.
Jackie Mudd, a 1995 graduate and chair of Holy Family Church’s parish council, said she could still see her alma mater within the center’s walls.
“For anybody who went to school here, it’s still recognizable,” she said.
Mudd also said she’s glad the space is being used.
“I love that this building is being used rather than sitting here empty,” she said. “What better way to promote Holy Family than to have the archdiocese here?”
Carole Sanders, a parishioner of St. Peter the Apostle Church who attended the event, said, “I love how open it is to everybody. The accessibility is apparent as soon as you walk in the building. You can look out from the second floor balcony and see out to the neighborhood.”
Standing in one of the new conference rooms, Cathy Cooke, chair of the St. Edward Church parish council, said, “This room is awesome for meetings. No matter where you sit, you can see the screens from any point. They have done a really good job pulling the old space with the school together with the new.”
Dr. Joseph Twagilimana, a member of St. Thomas More Church who toured the new building, said he found it to be beautiful.
“From what I see, it’s a good building and centrally, the location is ideal,” he said. “It has a pastoral feel. For me, this place and the spirit, I prefer” to the former headquarters, known as the Chancery, which was located on the southern edge of downtown Louisville.
He noted that in his native Rwanda, churches tended to be in the countryside away from the city center, so the Pastoral Center’s location feels appropriate to him.
The location played a large role in planning for the new center, said Dr. Brian B. Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese.
In an interview at his new Pastoral Center office recently, he noted that “by road, it’s near the geographic center of the county” and for those coming from outside Jefferson County, it’s located about a half a mile from the Watterson Expressway, which provides access to I64 and I65.
The Pastoral Center was built with an eye to the future, Reynolds said.
“You don’t build a building like this for yourself,” he said. “You build with an eye to the future. It’s an act of stewardship really.”
He added that there are multiple points where the building could be expanded should that become necessary.
He also noted that the building design took other elements into consideration — from art to earth-friendly features to accessibility for those with disabilities.
Handicap parking spaces are intentionally located by both the main entrance and the rear entrance and the building is equipped with an elevator and automatic doors.
The design also attempts to communicate the building’s mission, he noted.
“We always have to remember we are a church,” he said. “There are gathering points, symbols and structures in the building that remind us of who we are.”
Among these features are multiple gathering spaces, large and small, he noted. At the forefront of these is the three-story atrium where the crowd gathered for Saturday’s blessing. The soaring atrium, he said, “creates a sense of lifting up.”
“I’ve watched people walk in and there’s a tendency to look up. And that’s a prayer posture” he added.