BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - With gold hammers in hand, Father Andy Prachar and the construction team celebrated the ground breaking of the Church of Little Flower Parish Center construction project with a ceremony on Monday, March 19.
Father Andy, dressed with a red scarf in honor of St. Joseph's Day, opened the ceremony with a blessing and recognized the many people that were involved in getting to this point of the project that was years in the making.
"After much work and prayer by so many members of our parish in cooperation with the leadership of the township of Berkeley Heights and our partner, RedCom, we gather now to bless the creation of our new parish center," said Father Andy. "It will be a center for our parish activities, a place where we come to know one another and give witness to our faith in Christ. Here the young will learn of their Catholic faith and adults will deepen their commitment to live as Christ has taught us. We pray that the Word of God may always echo from its walls."
The renovation includes the gutting of the existing public library at 290 Plainfield Ave. and transforming the space into a new parish center for the church. "The new parish center will consist of administration offices and classrooms for religious education and workshops. The renovation will bring the current building up to current building, energy and accessibility code," said Milina Milonnet, a representative from RedCom Design and Construction LLC, the project's construction team. The project is anticipated to take approximately six months with a projected opening in September.
Monsignor William Harms, Mayor Bob Woodruff, Bridget Niegel, Little Flower Chair of the Parish Finance Council, along with approximately 50 members of the parish and construction team were present to join in Little Flower's celebration.
Niegel said that this project has been in talks for decades and thanked Father Andy, Monsignor Harms and the Archdiocese for their work in making this happen. She said she saw many starts and stops to this project over the past decade. This time around, the parishioners helped to make it happen by supporting Father Andy. She also thanked the township, Mayor Woodruff and the town council.
Mayor Woodruff told the crowd that he was approached about the property swap by a parishioner five years ago. "I got a phone call from one of your parishioners -- so Kevin Hall and I met with representatives from the church. The town had an issue with our building and the church had an issue with its facilities, and it seemed like it was something that could work."
Niegel thanked Hall, who was unable to attend, for being instrumental in partnering with the church and "really making it a true partnership in that it was truly collaborative -- always looking out for a win win for both sides." Niegel also recognized Councilwoman Jeanne Kingsley, who was not present due to a death in the family.
Woodruff is proud of the collaboration between the township, church and library. Each of the entities involved are independent and autonomous -- everybody had interest -- we had to work together to get to a common end where it was a great thing, said Woodruff. "I am proud of what we have done collaboratively. You are going to have a great future and that makes a great future for Berkeley Heights."
Niegel introduced the RedCom team and named Lynne Rein, Business Development Manager and John Manilio, Vice President Engineering as instrumental people that made the project happen for RedCom and Little Flower. "They always went above and beyond, just exemplary of customer relationship management, always showing us how important we were to them," said Niegel.
They say it takes a village, and in this case it does, we are grateful, said Niegel. Then, the crowd took a tour of the gutted space that will be the home of the new Parish Center.