History of Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church and School
In The beginning
The St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Litchfield Park has a very colorful history. It was the first church in Litchfield Park. It started out as a small Mission Church established by Bishop Gercke of the Catholic Diocese of Tucson.
From 1913 until 1925 St. Mary’s Basilica of Phoenix operated the Mission with Fr. Ambrose presiding. Mass was said at the home of Frank and Sara Serrano. Frank and Sara Serrano ran the Post Office and General store for the Southwest Cotton Company whose President was Mr. Paul W. Litchfield.
The Serrano’s worked with Mr. Litchfield in finding property for the St. Thomas Aquinas Mission Church. The property they selected belonged to the Tom Doyle family. Mr. Litchfield hired Architect R. D. Johnson of Pasadena, California to design the Mission Church. The Doyle family was instrumental in getting the labor to build the church which was built primarily for the Mexican farm workers of the Southwest Cotton Company. The SW Cotton Company later became Goodyear Farms. Bishop Gercke named the Mission Church St. Thomas Aquinas for Tom Doyle.
In 1918, Mr. Litchfield sold the land where the Mission Church was located to the Diocese of Tucson for $1.00. According to the deeds and agreements the construction of the church was completed in October of 1923, even though the cornerstone reads 1919. Records indicate that the building was sold by the Southwest Cotton Company to the Diocese of Tucson at a completed cost of $2,829.35.
One of the highlights of the little Mission Church was when Cardinal Spellman, a friend of Mr. Litchfield’s, celebrated Mass at the Mission church. Mr. Litchfield was so concerned that everything be in order for the Mass he had the church painted and donated a new organ. According to Mary Agnes Tidwell, the church was filled with Protestants. Another interesting fact Mrs. Tidwell shared was that the Statues in the little Church were donated by Wigwam guests. Sara Serrano donated a Statue of the Sacred Heart in memory of her husband.
In 1925, Claretain priests who spoke Spanish arrived from Mexico to form the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on Ninth Street and Washington. This was the first Spanish speaking church in Phoenix. One of the Spanish speaking priest, Fr. Cubillo, was given the responsibility of the Mission Church in Litchfield Park. Immaculate Heart of Mary ran the Mission Church until 1943. From 1943 until 1954 the Mission Church was under the leadership of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale.
From 1954 until 1972 St. John Vianney of Goodyear was responsible for the Church. In 1956 Bishop Gercke of the Tucson Diocese formed the new parish of Avondale, Goodyear and Litchfield Park. Fr. Francis Murphy was assigned to the Parish and Masses were held in St. Thomas Aquinas Mission Church, the Avondale Elementary School, and in the Government Camp.
In 1969 when the Diocese of Phoenix was established, the Mission Church became part of the Phoenix Diocese under Bishop McCarthy. In 1973, Fr. Phil Reiser, as the Pastor of St. John Vianney in Goodyear negotiated the purchase of the 3.7 acres of land where the present St. Thomas Aquinas Church is located at Litchfield Rd. and Indian School Bypass. At the time the land was purchased the local fire station was located on this property. The Mission Church could only seat 125 parishioners and was too small for the 300 families that attended the Church. As early as 1973 the Diocese started negotiating the sale of the Mission Church and property with Fr. Reiser representing the Mission Church for the Diocese.
In 1975, St. Thomas Aquinas became a separate parish from St. John Vianney. Fr. Eamon Barden was the first Pastor of the St. Thomas Aquinas Parish and Dick Barton was the first Parish Council President. In 1976, under Fr. Barden’s leadership the Activity Center was built on the new Church site. Paul Mahoney chaired the Committee to build the Activity Center. This was the first building in Litchfield Park that could seat 200 people and had kitchen facilities to have a large sit down dinner. The building was very popular and was used by the Boy Scouts, other churches and organizations.
In 1978, Fr. John Hillman became the new Pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas and during his tenure, added the Rectory to the new Church site. He and Bishop Rausch continued to negotiate the sale of the Mission Church and property. Following Fr. John Hillmans tragic death in 1980, Fr. Thomas Hever was named our new Pastor. Finally after a ten year period, the Mission Church was sold for $120,000 on November 30, 1983 to the Litchfield School District #79.
Bishop Thomas O’Brien authorized the sale of the Mission Church with some hesitancy as it had significant Historical value. He felt it should be preserved as a historical building as there were few churches in the Diocese of that maturity. Bishop O’Brien also realized that the small parish needed funds to build a new church. The Men’s Club auctioned the pews, statues and even the church bell to raise money to build the new church. At this time Masses were starting to be held in the Activity Center at the new church site. The first Mass was marked by a historic procession from the old church. Many parishioners took part in the procession. The past Parish Council presidents carried the Blessed Sacrament much like the people of the Old Testament moving the Ark of the Covenant. Masses were held in the Activity Center until 1985 when the new church was completed.
In 1983, Father Hever and the Parish Council formed a building committee which was chaired by Dick Barton (still a current member of our parish). In early 1985 the committee chose Phoenix Architects Jones and Roberts to build the new church. Work began in April of 1985 and the new Church was completed by December of 1985 at a cost of over One Million dollars for the building and furnishings. The first Mass was said in the new church on December 15, 1985. The current Church of St. Thomas Aquinas was dedicated on February 23, 1986 with Bishop Thomas O’Brien and Fr. Tom Hever officiating the Mass.
Our present Church seats 600 people and has a separate chapel that has the Stations of the Cross from the Mission Church. It also has original Art work as the stone wall statues were sculpted by Michael Myers of Prescott. The statues and stained glass in the Church were all designed by Maureen McGuire of Scottsdale. Dave Jones, the architect, designed the altar to symbolize granite rock rising out of the floor as a sacrificial altar in the Old Testament and the wooden table on top symbolizing the Last Supper in the New Testament.
Many changes have transpired since that day in 1986. We have had the privilege of seeing four more pastors come our way; Fr. Paul Smith (1989-1992), Fr. Franklin Bartel (1992-1998), Fr. Ray Greco, Associate Pastor (1993-2000), and Fr. Kieran Kleczewski (1998-present).
In 1995, Father Bartel renamed the Activity Center the Aquinas Center. A Statue of St. Thomas Aquinas was retrieved from the old Mission Church and is now prominently displayed in the Center.
Our very first Deacon, Tony Scarbino, joined our church staff in 1993. In 1994, Deacon Chuck Shaw joined our Parish. Deacon Tony moved out of town, but in 1996 Deacon Dan Peterson joined us too. Deacon Dan Peterson left in the fall of 1997 and became director of the Diaconate for the Diocese of Phoenix. Deacon Bill Phares joined us in the spring of 1998 and left in the late spring of 1999. In August 2000, Deacon Joe Root joined our parish. He left and we have been blessed by having Milford Suida join the parish. Mr. Suida was ordained as a deacon on November 6th, 2004, and continues to serve our parish.
During this period of time we have also seen tremendous growth in the West Valley. Our Church, which was originally intended to serve the Litchfield Park, soon became a West Valley Church. With the completion of the I-10 Interstate and the sale of the area around Litchfield Park to Pinnacle West , a local developer, the little village of Litchfield Park changed immensely as it became a City in 1986. This changed the entire strategy of the original concept of the Church. With all of the new housing areas and new commercial development surrounding Litchfield Park, our Church population has grown from the 300 families at the old Church to over 1300 families in 1998. We now have six weekend Masses instead of the two we had in the Mission Church.
This situation presented a space problem and in November of 1996 a major fund raising drive was held to retire the Church debt and to remodel the Aquinas Center to add two more Religious Education classrooms. The old Rectory was converted into Parish offices. An interim Rectory was purchased two blocks from the Church in Litchfield Park and has now been replaced by a much larger Rectory.
At the present time the Mission Church is still owned by the Litchfield School District. The Mission Church is one of three buildings that the City plans to give a place of honor and preserve as a historical structure.
The Future — Our Next Home
The new home for the family of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish was carefully reviewed by the Building Committee. The committee urged all parishioners to participate in the planning process for our new church facility.
During late 1999 and into early 2000, the members of the building committee and other parishioners visited several southwest churches to assist us in making some very important decisions. Our goal must be to plan and construct the most viable, practical and functional facilities – contained within aesthetically pleasing architectural structures – to reflect the needs, desires and identity of our parish and to adequately serve St. Thomas Aquinas parish as well.
On October 21, 1999, the Diocese of Phoenix closed on the purchase of a 37 1/2 acre parcel of land east of Litchfield Road and north of Thomas Road. Fifteen acres of this property are designated as thecurrent site of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Center and school. The remainder of the property will be held by the Diocese as a potential site for a westside Catholic high school.
Change is inevitable. Growth and development dictate planning for the future. It is our sincere hope and prayer that the community of St. Thomas Aquinas parish will continue to reap the blessings of a loving, caring, spirit-filled people of God. We must work together to keep this community spirit alive!
With grateful hearts we recognize the hard work and dedication provided by parishioners past, present, and in the future, to make our parish community what it is today. A true labor of love – “A Family Affair”.
A couple in the parish approached me and were asking some questions about the new church. They remarked “Father you forget that some of us were not around for the planning of the new church”. It dawned on me that almost half of the present parish was not involved in the planning of this project. Over the next few weeks, I want to reflect and remember some of the processes that we went through in designing the new church.
In October of 1998, the parish made a very brave decision. Despite the fact that our four Sunday masses were at best half full, we realized that we had a window of 3 to 5 years before our present church would be overwhelmed by new members. That month the parish voted to acquire new land to build a new church and a parish grade school. We lobbied the Diocese to buy sufficient land to build a diocesan high school next to our new property. Between October and February, I explored property options to find an appropriate site with Monsignor McMahon, head of Diocesan Building and Properties. The church site was selected in February, 1999, and the land was purchased by the Diocese the following October. At the same time we selected the land, I formed a building committee comprised of the following people: Rosemary Lang-Fiebig as Chair, Susan Charnetsky, Glenn Forstner, Brian & Marihelen France, Wayne Hicks, Debra and the late Clint Keeler, Dick Pelton, Diane Rosztoczy, Dave & Gina Thomas and myself. A building project of this size is an enormous undertaking. It requires the Parish Building Committee to dedicate a massive amount of time and talent into leading the parish through our planning process and making the decisions that need to be made concerning this project.
Rosemary Lang-Fiebig needs to be singled out for her leadership and drive in keeping us all on track. The Parish Building Committee was comprised of members of the parish from different geographic areas, individuals who had been in the parish different lengths of time, members who had been on the previous building committee for our present church. I also tried to differentiate the committee by age. In order to enable younger parishioners to be a part of the committee, I decided to invite couples to the committee so that one or the other could attend the meeting if both couldn’t make it.
The dozen members of the building committee set to work in late February. I told the committee that we had a year to play with, a year that I called our “Dreaming Phase”. I didn’t want us to start out our planning by being restricted in our vision by time, by space, by thoughts of what it would cost, by what others had done or not done, by what the Diocese told us we could do or not do. We needed to take time to envision the best of all possible worlds, a plan of what we wanted to create for our new parish home.
I also told the committee that part of our work was to help educate the parish on what the requirements were for constructing a place of worship: what was required by Diocesan law; and what was suggested to us by our own history as the church in the Southwest. Between February of 1999 and May 2000, the parish held a number of activities that literally involved hundreds and hundreds of parishioners. George Christienson, a noted architect, did a series of lectures for the parish on the “type” of a Southwest or Spanish mission. As he indicated, the traditional elements of the mission style included: simplicity of building material, arches or bell tower, and, in many cases, a dome. In addition, I conducted a lecture series on the history of the church in the Southwest. Rosemary Lang-Fiebig, together with the members of the building committee, organized a series of parish pilgrimages and trips. Our first trip highlighted the ancient Spanish mission that stretched from Santa Fe (where Saint Michael’s the oldest Catholic Church is in America and still stands) north up the Rio Grande River to Taos . On this trip, we visited not only these ancient missions but also award winning new churches that were built in New Mexico . The other series of trips highlighted the ancient missions of Southern California . These trips also included visits to modern churches that included everything from balconied and tiered churches in auditorium style, to churches in-the-round, to more traditional style churches. We also had smaller trips that didn’t cover a three day weekend. These were day-trips to new churches in the East Valley , Sun City, the West Valley , and Tucson . During these trips and activities, we surveyed parishes on what they liked and didn’t like. We took photos of the many features we saw.
Meanwhile, a second committee was formed, which was the School Steering Committee headed by Steve Lopez. The members of this committee included Gina Buben, Ann Donahue, Walter Doyle, Cora Gaabucayan, Kelly Minten, Ken Porter, Bob Seidler, Judi Switanek, Dale Thorpe, Kimberly Yamamoto and myself.
The hard work and countless hours spent by the members of this committee helped insure that Saint Thomas Aquinas would indeed have a grade school. During this time the school committee filled out endless paperwork for Diocesan processing and approval of our school. Trips were planned to new schools far and wide. Members critiqued schools for features they liked and didn’t like and came up with a very clear list of what they were looking for in our classrooms. As the work of the building committee and school committee was proceeding, the building committee also held meetings with all the ministry groups within the parish. Each group was asked a series of questions. These questions were 1) what space needs do you have to conduct your present ministry?
2) imagine our parish twice its present size and 3) what needs would you have to conduct your ministry? we asked each group to imagine a parish four times its present size, and asked them to consider what their space needs would be for a new parish. Gathering the information, the building committee met with the leadership of each ministry. This provided an estimate of space needs for our new parish plan.
Simultaneously, while the building committee and school committee were doing their work, David Hentches, who worked as our Pastor Associate, was busy getting together a Pastoral Plan for the parish. Pulling together a diverse group of parishioners, David set about constructing a five-year plan for the parish. The plan located ministries that were thought to be lacking in our parish and other ministries that parishioners felt needed to be expanded. This five-year plan also assisted the building committee in determining other space requirements for the new facility.
At the end of 14 months, in April of 2000, the final planning work for the new church was put into place. From all the information that was compiled on our trips, we developed a large library of photographs. The building committee devised seventeen different categories of photos that included things like how we wanted our landscape to look, the fountain to look, how we wanted the court yard to look, what we wanted the exterior of the building to look like, what style we wanted in the interior of the building, what shape we desired for seating in the church etc.
On several consecutive weekends the parish voted on these 17 elements. Amazingly, when voting was all said and done about 85% of the parish had voted for some basic realities. We wanted our church to reflect the tradition of the mission and we wanted it to have those components that were talked about by George Christienson: the arches and arcaded walks, a dome, a bell tower, all to be constructed out of basic simple material. Remember the old missions would have been built out of adobe block, would have been mud-stuccoed and whitewashed. Perhaps some simple tile roofs would also be put into place. Doors were of wood etc., This was the first directive of the parish. The Parish also overwhelming voted for the church to be built in a cruciform shape. To honor the look of the missions the interior of our church sought traditional art and seating. The landscaping that the parish decided on included desert landscaping at the perimeters of the property; as you came onto the property in our parking lots, a lusher richer look; finally by the time you came through the arcades into the heart of the property a much more tropical look was achieved. The last thing the parish voted upon is that they wanted a church that would be a landmark for the West Valley . After we gathered this information from the parish, the building committee brought all this together into the building document (a document of about 8 or 9 pages that described for architects what we were hoping to build- what our vision was for the new Saint Thomas Aquinas).
In May of 2000, the building committee interviewed our final round of architects. The program document began with this phrase “We are hoping to build a landmark for the West Valley as St Francis Xavier and Brophy are for the City of Phoenix . When interviews were completed, we were in agreement that CCBG seemed to be the firm that best understood what we were trying to do and what we hoped to accomplish.
By the end of May 2000, we signed an agreement with CCBG making them the architects of this project. Paul Ladensack, a talented young architect, was assigned to be the architect for our project. Paul is a graduate of Brophy High School and ASU School of Architecture. Working with him on the project as his assistants where Mark Phillips and Mike Masengarb.
Building St. Thomas Aquinas
Having finished our planning and hired our architect, Saint Thomas Aquinas Parish was ready to move from our dreaming phase to the practical realities of putting up a major building. Our first part of the project was creating the site plan. The site plan was the master plan as to were buildings where to be located in relationship to one another in the final build out of the project. Our need assessment showed us that we needed the following spaces: a church that seated 1600 people by Diocesan standards (2000 people by Building Code Standards)-the size of the church was dictated by the Diocese; our grade school indicated that we needed a grade school that had three classrooms per grade from pre-school to eighth grade; additional rooms such as a media center, a gymnasium, science lab, art lab, music room, cafeteria etc; these spaces were needed for our Education Program and to accommodate the increasing number of meetings for parish organizations; a daily Mass chapel that would seat approximately 250 people, a senior center to provide space for our growing number of senior citizens; space for Saint Vincent de Paul, a parish hall that would accommodate a crowd of 500 people seated around round tables; a series of courtyards to inter-connect the buildings that would also provide outdoor space for parish activities and group events. All this was to be accommodated on the 15 acres of land owned by the parish with the remaining acreage to the North being laid out for a high school that would accommodate 1000 students.
CCBG presented the building committee and the parish with four rough site plans for these buildings. The present master plan is a refinement of two separate proposals. One thing that continues to intrigue people is that the buildings are not square to each other. The school for instance angles away from the church, just as the parish hall, when it is built and the senior center will also angle from the church. This is a feature that is typical to the missions. Buildings were laid out in such a way that they pointed to or highlighted the church. This also becomes a way in which the courtyards broaden and become even larger spaces for gathering. The site plan had to go through several separate reviews by the Diocesan Building Commission (DBC), as well as a presentation that was made to our parishioners. In the initial plan, the daily Mass Chapel was to be in the courtyard, situated between the senior center and the grade school at the far end of the main courtyard. In the final site plan, the chapel was moved to the north end of the grade school in order to be situated as a demarcation line between the grade school and the high school. The rest of year, we continued to fine tune and finalize our site plan.
In February 2001, we began the schematic design for the church. These designs gave shape to the church, suggested a seating arrangement, yet did not suggest the outward look of the church or its height. The schematic design that was presented by the architects for the grade school followed directives by the school committee. The classrooms should be 1000 square feet in size to accommodate 24 students. We wanted ample built in cabinetry, doors between classrooms, and rooms with external windows so the children could see out. The school building formed a large quadrangle. It was two stories, with the parish and school offices intermingled at one end of the building on the lower floor with the gymnasium on the other end of the school complex. Space for Lifeteen was planned for the new grade school, as well as art and science rooms in a separate building in the courtyard of the school.
The church was laid out in a cruciform shape as was indicated by the parish. Sacristy rooms, gift shop areas, bathroom and foyer were all laid out in the front of the church, with the main body of the church forming a cross. A problem that needed to be resolved in the design of the church was the liturgical directive that the congregation must be able to see itself. In the classic cruciform shape, those in the arms of the church cannot see those in the nave, and those seated in the nave cannot see those in the arms of the church. Additional problems included: where we were going to place the baptismal font, confessionals, cry room and the tabernacle. “Living Stones”, the church document which lays out the requirements for building new churches, suggests that the baptismal font be either in the foyer or the rear of the church. In our present church our font is located in the rear. Yet, when we do baptisms in our present church not everyone turns around to watch because of the slope of the floor. What we have been doing is setting up a bowl in front of the altar for baptisms at Mass. I suggested that we needed to move the font up front, not to compete with the altar, but in such a way that it would be visible throughout the church. The cry room was another important issue. Many “older” parishioners didn’t like the idea of having a cry room. They felt we would be banishing younger families. Yet it was younger families that kept saying “Father, we want a cry room, just don’t stick us in the back of the church with a 3×5 foot window. Otherwise we will never teach our kids to behave at Mass”. The third concern had to do with the placement of music.
A number of parishioners had commented to the building committee that they felt the placement of music in our present church often times took over the focus from the altar. Especially at major feasts, the music area sometimes intruded into the sanctuary. The problem with the new church was how to honor the directive that ministers of music must be in the front of the congregation, yet to separate them in a reverent way from the sanctuary. The fourth issue that had to be resolved was the placement of the tabernacle. Directives for building new churches indicate that the Blessed Sacrament should be placed, if possible, in a chapel separate from the main church (visible from the main church, but not necessarily in the main church). These four issues combined with the central problem of the cruciform design: how do we gain visibility from one section of the church to the other?
After struggling with the drawings that the architects had brought us, we as the building committee finally found a solution. If we could cut away the corners of the cross and create a Celtic cross with rounded corners, we would create visibility. In addition, we would solve our other problems as well by placing the Baptistery in one of the corners of the cross, the musicians in an other corner, the Blessed Sacrament in a third, and the cry room in the fourth.
Our architects took the idea and came back with drawings that worked well. They placed the cry room, and Blessed Sacrament at the two lower corners of the altar platform. The use of glass walls as partitions opened up the site lines in the nave and the arms of the cross. By placing the Baptistery up front on the side of the altar, we moved the Baptistery to a position where it could be observed by all without forcing people to turn around to see something behind them. The biggest problem in the new design, which took us a few more weeks to resolve, was configuring the choir area in such a way, that the choir did not appear to be an afterthought or appear to be completely removed from the church, yet was sufficiently large to house a sizable music program. The schematic design was shared with the parish then brought before the DBC for approval. As I had anticipated, there was a great deal of opposition on the DBC to the shape of the church. For the last 20 years, only fan shaped churches had been built in the Diocese. Understandably, the DBC had a number of questions regarding why we were placing things in particular areas and a great deal of skepticism to whether or not this floor plan would work. Despite their concerns, we were allowed to proceed to the next stage of architectural drawing-design development. Having completed the schematic design phase of this project, it was time for us as a building committee to hire a general contractor. Once again, we interviewed a number of general contractors. The committee felt that Adolphson and Peterson were the most team oriented and were very willing to work with us on this project. A&P came on board in the late spring of 2001 to help us in estimating the cost of the project as we moved into the design development phase.
Based upon funds we had on hand, the money we were projecting from the capital campaign and the money we were anticipating from the sale of the church, the Diocese set a building cap at approximately $10,500,000.00. This represented 35% cash on hand, 35% anticipated in pledges and 30% that could be borrowed from the Diocese. This figure included the cost of purchasing the land ($875,000.00), the cost of site work, utilities, pavement and landscaping (approximately $2,000,000.00). The remainder was the cost of phase one of the school and the church.
In May of 2001, the building committee and the school committee had done an enormous amount of work. We had gone through our schematic phase, and received approval from the diocese although reluctant. We were ready to move into the stage of design development: creating the building we would see today. Several things drove this stage of the project. First of all, as you recall, we had set out in our original building document that we wished to create a landmark for the West Valley and wished that landmark to be built in the traditional mission style of Southern Arizona and Southern California .
Missions (as George Christenson had told us) have classic mathematical proportions. The size church we were building meant the building took on an enormous size. The original drawings for the church called for walls 55 feet tall, the dome rising to a height of 85 feet, and the bell tower stretched to over 100 feet. The school was designed fairly much as we see it today, except 4 times the size, enclosing its own courtyard. The church was surrounded by arcades, which wrapped the church and connected it to the surrounding buildings. The church was designed in such a way that the narrow elongated cross of a typical mission was broadened by light-wells in order to accommodate more seating. Yet, the design evoked that sense of the narrow long arms of the cross, which was typical of the missions. The light-wells were a feature universally hailed by members of the parish as something we loved in our present chapel and wished we could incorporate into our new church. The test of this grand design came at the first effort of A&P to put numbers to what we had drawn on paper. It was clear that the buildings as originally designed were significantly beyond the money we had to spend. You must keep in mind that although we had a $10,500,000.00: $865,000.00 was the cost of the land, another $2,000,000 was tied up in such things as earth moving, paving, utilities, parameter fencing and landscaping, all of which added to the cost of the project. In reality we had $7,500,000.00 to spend on the buildings themselves. To come within our budget, we phased our office space and designed the school to be built in phases. We were able to build one classroom per grade as opposed to three, we also reduced the size of our offices, that in this first phase we would only be able to open one classroom per grade in the school and it was also necessary to reduce the scope of the church somewhat by reducing the external walls from 55 feet to 50 feet, bringing the dome down to a height of 78 feet and leaving the completed tower with the cross at 100 feet. These adjustments in the scope of the projects brought the building into the range of what we were allowed to spend.
Once again the plans for the school and the church moved forward as we came to our next set of Diocesan approvals. The building commission of the Diocese was not inclined to approve the building as they saw it: they did not like the style of the church, they were not convinced that the cross shape of the church was acceptable, they thought the volume of the church was too large, the height of the walls too high, the dome unnecessary and they were unwilling to let us proceed with the project. At the end of the meeting I simply thanked them for their input and said that “I would have to appeal to the Bishop and let him make the final decision”. We had a meeting with the Bishop, which included the architect, the head of the building committee of the Diocese, and myself. The plans were presented and the Bishop’s only response was “Christians have been building churches in the shape of crosses for centuries, and if we are building bigger churches to seat more people, then we need greater volume if we are to have any beauty in our churches”. With his approval we were allowed to go forward with the project.
Over the next few months, the architects set into the long work of preparing construction documents. We continued to give input as a building committee to the countless details of the project. At the same time, the project moved through approval necessary for the City of Avondale Planning & Zoning as well as City Council. As in any building project there are delays, red tape of bureaucracy etc. All in all, the City of Avondale was very gracious to us as we moved through the city’s requirement. It has been clear from the beginning that the city was proud to have the new church as part of Avondale.