Bernardin Center dedicated at St. Peter

COLUMBIA — On May 17, the family of St. Peter Church celebrated the opening of their new parish center  named after one of their most famous sons, the late Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin.
Msgr. Leigh A. Lehocky, pastor, celebrated Mass at 5:30 p.m. in the historic church with a standing-room-only congregation. The crowd, estimated at 800 people, then moved outside and stood along Assembly Street for the official opening of the Cardinal Bernardin Center. They were inspired by a full complement of musicians and the church choir.
Cardinal Bernardin, archbishop of Chicago, was famous for his work toward social justice. He was born and raised in Columbia. He spent his formative years at St. Peter’s church and school and it was there that he received his first sacraments. He died of pancreatic cancer in November 1996 at age 68,  touching the lives of other cancer patients along the way.
Several members of the cardinal’s extended family attended the event.
The center is located at the corner of Park and Assembly streets. The building includes a formal gathering space for parish dinners and other events, classrooms, staff offices, the sacristy, a nursery, and a  kitchen and cafeteria for St. Peter School. The center replaces Murphy Hall, which was demolished in 2007.  
Msgr. Lehocky told the crowd that Cardinal Bernardin’s name lends a special meaning to the new building.  
“He was said by many to be one of the most influential Catholic leaders of the 20th century, and we hope his name will inspire us to follow his example,” Msgr. Lehocky said. “He was, first of all, a bishop of considerable energy, and may that same holy work continue in the building which will bear his name.”  
He spoke of Cardinal Bernardin’s commitment to social justice and unity within the Catholic Church, and  his “Seamless Garment” philosophy, which stressed the importance of respecting life in all its forms and stages, from birth to death.  
“May our building always be a house of peace and social justice, fostering it in the city and beyond,” he said. “May our center be a place where all stages of life are respected, nurtured and embraced.”  
In an interview with The Miscellany, Msgr. Lehocky said the building was funded through the parish’s capital campaign, “Living Our Faith: Building our Future,” which started in 2006.
He said parishioners decided they needed a new parish life center to match an extensive renovation of the church, which was built in the 1820s.  
“We decided we really wanted to put our church building in first class shape, and that we wanted more than just that,” Msgr. Lehocky said.
“Our list of parishioners is made up of 46 different zip codes. People drive from all around to come to Mass here. We want more than just the church building to be nice — we want somewhere to have a fruitful parish life,” he added.  
The decision to name the building after Cardinal Bernardin came from parishioners, too.
“He is our native son, and we hope to take some inspiration from his life,” he said. “People here see his life as a really good example of service to the church, and we hope to carry on his example.”