St. Theresa, Farmville, celebrates blessing of $1.5M project
In the past, visitors to the food pantry at St. Theresa Parish, Farmville, had to stand outside in all kinds of weather because the small space could admit only five clients at a time.
On Saturday, April 17, Bishop Barry C. Knestout blessed St. Theresa’s new parish center, which was begun in 2017 and completed in January. The construction includes updated classrooms, administrative offices and meeting rooms, restrooms with showers, a kitchen, a spacious social hall with large windows, and a large food pantry and clothing closet with a seating area that can welcome up to 75 people comfortably.
“Everyone is so excited about the new building, especially the food pantry,” said Father Stefan Migac, pastor of St. Theresa. “People are able to come inside now, and that’s been the biggest blessing.”
‘Treating people with dignity’
Doreen Hines, director of the food pantry and clothing ministry, explained that the previous shed-like trailer forced people to wait outside in the cold, rain and wind, and the summer heat.
“We have some elderly clients who are in their 80s and some who are sick or disabled, and they should not have to stand outside in the cold,” Hines said.
Now they can come inside, be seated, have a hot or cold drink and watch television or listen to the radio while they wait.
The building sends a message that the parish is committed to these ministries, Hines said.
“We always treat people with dignity,” she said. “That’s what God wants us to do.”
St. Theresa’s food pantry, which is open to the public on Wednesdays, complements the food pantry at Farmville Area Community Emergency Services (FACES), which serves clients on Saturdays.
“The food pantry is a great way to help us be present in the community,” said Father Migac, noting that Catholics are minorities in the area. “This is the face of the Catholic Church in central Virginia.”
During his visit, the bishop celebrated Mass and blessed the new center, sprinkling holy water on the walls and floors of each room.
“With perseverance, with much work and prayer, all this has been brought about,” Bishop Knestout said. “The structure is the important underpinnings within which all the work of the Spirit can take place in terms of community and prayer, in teaching and in charity.”
In the food pantry and clothing closet area, he noted: “This is a place already blessed because of all the charity here.”
‘God’s hands in this’
Director of religious education Karel Bailey spoke about the five classrooms, which are larger than the old ones. The previous classrooms doubled as storage areas and thus were unsafe as well as inconvenient and confining.
“Now teachers and students can move around, which makes for more creative teaching and learning,” said Bailey, noting the program serves an average of 50 students a year. “The teachers are so excited to be able to teach better in these spaces.”
Bailey added that students have been able to return to the larger classrooms and maintain social distancing during the pandemic, which would not have been possible in the small classrooms before.
“I see God’s hands in all of this,” she said. “And there’s a renewed enthusiasm for religious education that makes me hopeful.”
The classrooms and other gathering spaces also are used for RCIA and adult education, as well as campus ministries from nearby Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College.
The need for a new building was discussed as early as 2009, but it wasn’t until 2017 that the campaign, “Alive in Christ,” officially began.
Several other needs arose later, such as classroom equipment and more space for a parking lot.
The entire project cost about $1.5 million. With $600,000 already available, the parish raised another $750,000 and received a $200,000 loan from the diocese.
An existing building of about 5,000 square feet was renovated for offices and classrooms, and the two-level addition of about 9,000 square feet now houses the social hall, kitchen, food pantry, clothing closet, mechanical room and meeting rooms.
How it became a reality
Father Migac credits parishioners for their help to make the building a reality, especially the project leaders Adam and Jean Algeier.
“There were many things I do not know as a priest, such as what colors the bathrooms should be,” Father Migac said with a laugh. “Jean and Adam were always there to answer those questions.”
“It was amazing to see the building take shape and to finally fulfill the dreams of the parish through the gifts of God,” Jean Algeier said.
Father Migac also noted that the diocese’s Catholic Community Foundation staff members – Margaret Keightley, Alex Previtera and Veronica Scholle – provided tremendous help and guidance with printed materials, meetings and fundraising.
A native of Slovakia, Father Migac also said that as a young priest shepherding his first parish, he is lucky to have such parishioners working with him.
The Farmville parish is diverse, with retirees from northern Virginia, students from area Catholic Campus Ministries, white- and blue-collar workers and middle-class families. But they all came together to make the building a reality, Father Migac said. “Now we just need to fill it up a little more to make it alive.”
St. Theresa Parish is one of three in a cluster, all served by Father Migac. The other two parishes – Sacred Heart, Meherrin, and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Blackstone – have use of the center and have their offices there as well.
Father Migac said the project has created more than just a building: it has deepened his trust.
“You might start a project and not be sure how it will turn out, but God provides the right people in the right place at the right moment,” he said. “I know that God is leading us.”