By Blessed Sacrament staff/ SUN contributing writers
Endicott –– Five years in the making, the Parish Family Center of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Endicott has been well worth the wait. After extensive campaigning, planning and building, the church is ready to open the doors of its new facility to a very excited congregation and community.
“We have been waiting a long time for this,” said Theresa Bendert, lay minister at OLGC. “The center will really be a positive way to build community and will benefit such a large group of people. Everyone is very excited.”
The parish family center has long been a vision for the people of OLGC. With 1700 families, it is one of the largest parishes in the diocese. However, prior to the building of the center, there were limited facilities to accommodate the parish, particularly the growing number of youth. Father Edward Zandy, pastor of OLGC, said that with the parish family center, OLGC finally can begin to meet the needs of the parish and greater community.
“The center has been on the drawing board since day one; there is nothing like this facility in the area,” Father Zandy explained. “Our parish had a vision for the people of western Broome. With financial stability and a growing number of parishioners, the time was right to make some additions.”
Following a blessing ceremony by Bishop Moynihan the previous weekend, parishioners of OLGC were invited to tour the center on Nov. 24. For many, this was their first opportunity to view the new, fully-equipped gymnasium, the centerpiece of the 2.1 million-dollar project. It is obvious that much planning and effort went into this part of the center –– from the ceiling, that is both heated and air-conditioned, right down to the floor, which has a rubber bottom, the type that most colleges use for the purpose of preventing injury. Truly a state-of-the-art facility, it also features new locker rooms and extending basketball nets.
The gym, which plans to open in two weeks –– just in time for the arrival of CYO basketball season –– finally gives the hundreds of children, teenagers and adults currently involved in the CYO basketball program at OLGC one place to practice and hold games. Before it was constructed, they had to use several different gyms in the area. Deacon Thomas Harley, director of religious education at OLGC, believes that the building of the gym addresses the need for youth of both the parish as well as the community to have “a place to call their own.”
“OLGC is a parish with good people, good liturgies and now good facilities,” said Deacon Harley. “The gym caters to the needs of the parish and community of West Endicott. It provides them with a place of growth and safety,” adding that over time OLGC hopes to open the center to non-parishioners for them to use as well.
Although the gymnasium is an instrumental part of the center, it isn’t the only addition. As Father Zandy pointed out, it was important that the church address the needs of the entire parish community when developing the facility –– it is a parish center and all parishioners were kept in mind.
“We also included inside the gym an indoor walking track for seniors and plan to put coffee out for them in the morning. Over time, we hope to offer aerobics and fitness classes along with various health programs. The center should be an enjoyable place for everyone to come to,” Father Zandy stated.
Complimenting the center is a spacious atrium, which welcomes guests into the facility. Although the center is equipped with a kitchen, which can prepare meals for hundreds, the atrium can be used for more intimate gatherings. Father Zandy stated that with the building of the atrium, he wanted to provide parishioners with a “warm area where people can come together.”
Deacon Harley said that he found the parishioners of OLGC to be overwhelmingly supportive of the project. After all, they funded its entire construction.
“The parishioners funded all of the money by a parish capital campaign through pledges,” he explained. “Most everyone saw the project as an asset to the church and community and were behind it from the start.”
Although the center seems to be complete, Father Zandy still wants to make one more addition to it before it is finished. He hopes to install a grotto of the Virgin Mary in front of the center by April, in time for the May crowning.
Overall, Father Zandy said that the building of the new parish family center, which will host its first event –– a women’s tea –– on Dec. 5, was a positive experience. While he doesn’t plan to begin anymore projects any time soon, he stated that the parishioners were very easy to work with. He believes that the new center will be a great way for them to unite with each other as well as with the larger community.
“The new parish center will be a resource to all of our parishioners, both old and young alike. It will help us meet the growing needs of our members and the new demands of our parish community,” said Father Zandy. “I cannot think of a more appropriate way to enhance our faith than through the parish family center.”