By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
The parishioners of St. Bernadette Church have an extra reason to rejoice this Easter season.
After nearly 10 months of construction, the new St. Bernadette Church building is nearing completion and will be dedicated at 3 p.m. April 21.
“We had hoped to get in by Easter but it will be a little after,” said Father Terry Bradshaw, pastor of St. Bernadette Church.
St. Bernadette parish, located adjacent to Norton Commons, was formed in 2008 when Mother of Good Counsel and Transfiguration of Our Lord churches merged. When St. Mary Academy, a regional school located on the St. Bernadette campus, opened in 2009, parishioners began celebrating Mass in the school’s gymnasium.
Each weekend, volunteers unload chairs, arrange them in neat rows and set up the altar, ambo and cantor areas. Following Mass, the team breaks everything down and stows it away until the next weekend when they must do it all over again.
“My husband is part of the set up crew and we’re just so excited to get into the new church so we won’t have to do that anymore,” said Michelle Schofield, a St. Bernadette parishioner.
Schofield said she is looking forward to a more permanent worship space.
“This church community is very much like a blended family,” she said. “We have brought the very best from our two founding parishes. Now, with the new church we will no longer be blended, it will be ours.”
Paula Anderson, also a parishioner at St. Bernadette, said she is thrilled about the new church.
“I don’t mind this,” she said gesturing to the seats in the gym. “I just love this community and am very happy, especially for Father Terry.”
Father Bradshaw is not only anxious to say Mass in the new building but also to “experience the church in a prayerful way outside of the Mass context.”
“I’m looking forward to praying in the church where I will invite men and women to come into the church and pray in each of its spaces. We can pray using Lectio Divina at the ambo, pray a Marian prayer at the statue of Mary, pray at the Stations of the Cross and at the grotto of (Our Lady of) Lourdes,” Father Bradshaw said.
The new church building will seat 1,200 people in the nave. Three hundred more can fit into an overflow area near the main entrance. That’s a good thing too, since the parish continues to grow.
“We have a little more than 1,600 registered families with quite a number of young families,” Father Bradshaw said.
St. Mary Academy is a regional school sponsored by St. Bernadette and Immaculate Conception Church in La Grange, Ky., and it is also experiencing tremendous growth.
The school opened in August 2009 and is already near capacity with waiting lists for several grade levels, Father Bradshaw said.
While there are no plans to expand the school in the near future, the building was designed to be added to if necessary, he noted.
In addition to the sanctuary space, the new church building will have a nursery and a bridal suite. There also will be three meeting rooms that will hold 30 to 80 people each.
There is a day chapel on the west side of the building that can accommodate about 80 people.
The 31,000-square foot building cost $8.3 million and was largely financed through the Building a Future of Hope capital campaign. It also features a geothermal heating, ventilation and air conditioning system,
Father Bradshaw noted.
The church was built in a traditional style and incorporates details and pieces from several former churches. The marble work behind the altar came from the old St. Vincent de Paul Church. Various altar furnishings, including crucifixes and statues, were originally housed in Mother of Good Counsel and Transfiguration churches.
Father Bradshaw noted the work that goes into a building project such as the one at St. Bernadette is “pretty incredible.”
“Even though I have experience with building — my dad is a carpenter — the dedication and skill that goes into such a structure is pretty awesome actually,” he said.