BY KATHY SCHMUGGE
COLUMBIA — “What you have built is a testimony to your great faith and fraternity. Through sacrifice, you have made visible that faith in your heart,” said Bishop Robert J. Baker during the Mass of Thanksgiving and blessing of St. Joseph Parish Educational Building and Parish Hall/Gym held Oct. 16. Hundreds gathered for the building dedication and to celebrate the completion of the $4.3 million project.
Also present at the celebration was retired Bishop David B. Thompson, who reiterated the words from Bishop Baker’s homily, calling the 23,000-square-foot facility a concrete sign of the faith of the people of St. Joseph. “When I left two years ago, the building was a hole in the ground, and now I see how beautifully the hole has been filled,” said Bishop Thompson.
For long-time parishioner Emma Asmer, the building is the concrete answer to a lifelong prayer she never gave up on. From the first ground breaking of the church over 50 years ago to the graduation of each of her eight children from St. Joseph School, she was steadfast in her support and prayer for a place the children could gather and play indoors.
“I am overwhelmed with joy and I am thankful that God has allowed me to live to see this dream, that never seemed possible, come true.” Parishioner and teacher Deborah Adair also shared Asmer’s dream and sees its realization as a sign of growth of the Catholic community in Columbia.
Notre Dame Sister Christina Murphy, principal of the school, describes the building that has been utilized by her students since the beginning of the school year as a breath of fresh air. “It will provide many learning opportunities with the new music room, computer lab, classrooms and gymnasium,” she said.
A young graduate from St. Joseph, Megan Burbage, who now attends Cardinal Newman High School, welcomes the new facility as a way to reach out to more children so they can learn and grow in their faith.
“I want others to have the same positive experience I had here,” said Burbage, who attended the dedication service with her family.
After praising the fantastic job done on the addition, parishioner and parent, Dr. David Jordan made an astute prediction for St. Joseph Church.
“This multipurpose room will definitely bring about more youth activities,” said Jordan, “and when you have more youth activities, you will attract more people to the church.”
The new parish hall/gym will also help to accommodate the work of the church’s 60-plus ministries, allowing them to serve not only to its own 1,879 families and almost 4,000 members, but more of the outside community as well.
In his homily, Bishop Baker praised the church’s work in the past and encouraged everyone to continue to minister lovingly to the “lost, the least and the lonely.” Before blessing the building with holy water, he said, “Through the corridors of this new building, make them holy through your actions, as a sign of your faith and a sign of the warm hospitality of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Director of Youth and Adult Ministry John Waters, one of the many to benefit from the facility, feels the building from its inception to completion was a perfect illustration of community.
“It shows our Catholicity when we come together and pull something of this great magnitude off,” he said.
For the pastor, Msgr. Charles Rowland, who has faithfully watched and guided the project, the occasion marked not the end but a beginning.
“The dedication is a pause in the journey of faith, hope and love, where we stop to thank God for his many blessings and to thank the St. Joseph community for their continued generosity,” said Msgr. Rowland, who was commended by the bishop and his parishioners for his vision, leadership and perseverance.