| By Alfredo E. Cardenas

Parishioners’ Time, Talent, Treasure Come Together to Build New Office

As the cloud of the Covid-19 pandemic lifts from the Catholic faithful, parishes throughout the Diocese of Austin are actively rebuilding their communities. For example, on April 28, the faithful at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Kingsland dedicated a new parish office to serve the 150 parish families and its mission Our Lady of the Lake in Sunrise Beach.

Since its founding in 1965, the St. Charles Borromeo rectory has housed the parish office. However, diocesan Ethics and Integrity in Ministry norms advise that the parish office be separate from the rectory, said pastor Father Uche Obikwelu.

Last fall, Father Obikwelu, who has served as pastor since 2016, recommended to the Pastoral Council that the parish build a new office separate from the rectory. The Pastoral Council concurred, and Father Obikwelu presented a plan to Bishop Joe Vásquez for his approval. The bishop agreed, provided that current and future parish and finance councils and parishioners were on board to ensure the church had sufficient means to build and maintain the building.

Father Obikwelu said it was “through the generosity of parishioners who saw the need for our growing parish” that sufficient funding was available to begin construction last September. Father Obikwelu said the parish included weekly announcements at the beginning of Masses and progress reports in the weekly bulletin.

While the parish community is small, they enthusiastically got behind the project and raised sufficient funds to begin construction. Shirley Bouvier, a finance council member, designed the plans. Drawing on her more than 13 years in drafting and designing custom residential homes, she provided construction drawings for a civil engineer.

Bouvier, who joined the finance council in 2021, was delighted to help with the project because she knew the office would be a helpful addition for the community.

“After living in Austin and raising our family for 30 years, my husband and I moved permanently to Kingsland,” Bouvier said.

“For seven years we had been visitors to St. Charles Borromeo Church. During this time, I witnessed a steady growth of the town of Kingsland. Our parish grew too with new faces each week bringing new volunteers to help during liturgy, teaching, and other services,” she said.

Larry Schwarz, who has several years of experience in residential and commercial construction with Brother Sun Builders, Inc., ensured that the work observed commercial codes. In addition, Schwarz, Father Obikwelu and Bouvier spent many hours supervising the project’s construction.

Father Obikwelu pointed out that St. Charles Borromeo, from its early days, has attracted large numbers of tourists and vacationers who have also charitably contributed to the parish, including this project.

“By the generosity of our small community and visitors, we have the building completed today. In fact, because of their charity, we did not have to borrow funds for construction,” Father Obikwelu said.

The project cost $226,000, and the community raised $189,200, beginning in July 2021. Donations were made directly to the parish office or put in the collection basket. The new office sits behind the church and across the driveway from the rectory. The office shares a parking lot with the church and has an accessible parking space in front.

“We are proud to say that the project was approximately completed in seven months from start to finish, despite all the delays due to the pandemic and subsequent supply chain problems,” Father Obikwelu said.

Father James Misko, vicar general of the Austin Diocese, blessed the space on April 28.

“We give glory to God Almighty,” Father Obikwelu said. He thanked Bishop Vásquez and Father Misko as well as Patrick Baker, the diocesan director of Facilities and Planning for New Construction, for guiding the parish through the approval and the construction process.

The pastor also thanked the pastoral and finance council members, both past and present, parishioners and visitors for their support.

For more information about St. Charles Borromeo Parish visit stcharleskingslandtx.com.