BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Church of the Little Flower held a groundbreaking ceremony on Sunday, December 8, for the start of the "Going Home" construction project to expand the "Little Church" to accommodate 500 worshipers, add new gathering spaces and create a memorial garden.
"It was seven years and one week when I first introduced this dream to you of 'Going Home'," said Father Andy Prachar, Parish Pastor. "The first mass was held here in what was the library, originally Mount Carmel Hall." In the 1930s, Mount Carmel Society built the Little Church, he said. "We’re coming home."
Father Andy welcomed and thanked the large crowd that gathered for the groundbreaking. It's a "momentous moment in our lives -- a moment of faith. It’s also great for the town. When I first got here, your dream was for Little Flower to be part of Berkeley Heights and I think we are. - I think we are a real vibrant presence for the Township. To that, I ask that you join us in prayer as we move forward with the groundbreaking."
He welcomed Mayor Angie Devanney, the Township Council and Cardinal Joseph Tobin, who made his first visit to Berkeley Heights for this groundbreaking.
"I want to express gratitude to God for calling this community together and the holy spirit who makes us strong and helps you to endure," said Cardinal Tobin of the long journey to get to this construction phase of the project. "Go forward. I’m grateful to your Pastor Father Andy -- he is a close collaborator of mine. His work is a big help to me. -- God bless you and invite me back for the first mass."
Cardinal Tobin blessed the church grounds with holy water before they put the shovels to the ground. "Let us pray -- bless these sons and daughters, gifts of labor for a church to be built for you," said Cardinal Tobin.
Father Andy recognized Redcom Design and Construction, the project contractor, and Bridget Neigel, the Church of the Little Flower Finance Council Chair and Project Manager.
"Seven years ago, he [Father Andy] first spoke to the parish, six years ago we went to the Archdiocese. It’s been a long road, lots of obstacles, a lot of issues and things that happened. It taught us a couple of things -- our god is a god of endurance and a god of encouragement -- with through his help, with his encouragement we endured as a parish we stuck with it," said Neigel. "We thought in our time, it would happen quickly. Here we are seven years later -- we are ready right now."
Neigel thanked Father Andy for asking her to be by his side. She also recognized Rev. Msgr. William Harms and the parish staff. "His staff are relentless -- they are so committed to this parish. They care so deeply about this parish and this initiative." Along with the many others she thanked, she thanked her family for their tremendous support through this. "They know how important it is to me. And they know how important it is to all of you." She also thanked the people in attendance. "Thank you for being so generous and committed -- and to do this for our parish and to do it for the community and to do it for God. At the end of the day, it is his house, it's in his name and it’s for his glory. He got us here and he will get us to the end. Let’s go get this church built."
During the process, the church and the Township exchanged properties and Little Flower took ownership and renovated the old township library located at 290 Plainfield Avenue and transformed the interior into their pastoral center with offices, large meeting rooms, and classrooms. The Township is utilizing the rectory at 110 Roosevelt Avenue as their temporary library while the Township Municipal Complex is being built on Park Avenue. The Roosevelt Avenue property will be redeveloped into a 100-unit townhouse community, with 80 market rate townhouses and 20 affordable housing units.
Mayor Devanney said she recalls her time as Township Administrator in 2004, "or so," and having to grapple with the reverter clause [which said the land of the Little Flower School property would automatically revert back to the township if it ceased being used for educational purposes]. "I feel like I have come full circle -- so many of you out there who had faith and persistence and I applaud that. So many of my council colleagues both present and past who had faith and perseverance to make sure the Township was a partner in all of this. The Cardinal for being here today. Bridget for all of your hard work. And Father Andy for being the leader he is. We certainly are looking forward to our continued partnership with the church within our community and I’d like to say 'Welcome Home'."
Visit the Church of the Little Flower Website for more information, renderings and latest updates of the "Going Home" project.