FALCON - Reasoning that what was good enough for Jesus, is good enough for them, parishioners of St. Benedict Catholic Church in Falcon broke ground Sunday on a $1 million renovation that will turn an old barn into a place of worship.
"It's kind of ironic what it represents," said Candi Riccardelli. "Jesus got his beginnings in a barn, and that's where our new beginnings are, as well."
Diocese of Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan blessed the site at a groundbreaking ceremony that followed the regular Sunday Mass.
With a chilly wind and clumps of snow and hay clinging to the ground, parishioners took shelter in the barn that for the past five years has served as the parish hall.
"I'd like to extend my thanks and great esteem for all you have done to bring this project about," Sheridan told the crowd. "It's a real testimony to your faith, to your desire to have a suitable place for worship."
Since St. Benedict's formed in 2005, every Sunday morning in a nearby high school gymnasium church-goers have assembled and disassembled plastic chairs, metal bleachers, an altar, microphone stands, a song list hanging from the basketball hoops and other décor for their service. Someone made portable kneelers, but many adults and children still kneel on the gym floor or bleachers.
"We made the best of it," said parishioner Rosie Suerdieck, a military wife and mother of four. "I think it brought us closer as a community because we had to start from the ground up every week, with set-up and take-down."
For the past 11 years, parishioners have been working to raise enough money for their own building. They acquired the 35-acre ranch in July 2012 from a member of their congregation.
"After all these years, it's a blessing from God," said Louise Silvas, a parishioner since the church began. "It's been a long-awaited dream."
Described as a warm, welcoming community, 125 families started the church, and today there are 145 active households, said Deacon Lynn Sherman, parish director.
Over the years, membership has dipped to 100 families during the recession and ballooned to 170 families during prosperous times, he said.
Sherman is expecting more to join the flock in upcoming months.
"Now with the reality that it is a reality, there's great excitement and a lot of interest," he said.
To start construction, the church had to raise half of the cost and now has $500,000 in hand, Sherman said. It's a requirement from the diocese so as to not get financially overextended.
"In some big cities, churches are closing for economic reasons, but Falcon is growing," Sherman said.
Fundraisers such as an annual barn dance have helped the budget, along with a matching grant and financial support from other Catholic churches in the diocese.
Art C. Klein Construction is the general contractor, and Bruce Barr is the architect. The one-story building will retain the existing roof and a few of the original walls to create a "simple, dignified" church with seating for about 240. It will be located at 12150 Falcon Highway.
Angelo Pinterpe, development steering committee chairman, is described as the head cheer coach.
"This is really cool," he said. "Falcon is in need of this church - there is a large community of Catholics out here - and this gives us an opportunity to show our support for our faith."
St. Benedict Catholic Church is community-oriented and feels like one big family, members say.
"Everybody is there for everybody else," Silvas said.
"The fellowship is awesome," Riccardelli said. "There's a lot of farm people and so many different influences. I love the camaraderie."
The new church is expected to be finished in mid-September, Pinterpe said. One house on the property will remain as the church office, and another as a rectory for a future priest. The bishop will return for the grand opening.
Suerdieck said she was glad her children could see the groundbreaking.
"It's helping set a new generation of our faith," she said.