By Celine Klosterman
WASHINGTON — Bringing people together is one of the Catholic community’s goals, Wilfrid Vittetoe noted. And achieving that goal, he said, is what St. James Parish and school’s new fellowship hall “is all about.”
About 150 people attended a dedication ceremony and Mass on July 26 for the 12,000-square-foot hall, which connects the school and church. Bishop Martin Amos presided at the Mass, which also celebrated Father Paul Appel’s installation as St. James’ pastor.
Vittetoe, a member of the parish’s building committee, said the “user-friendly building” was constructed for about $2.2 million. So far a three-year fundraising campaign that began in spring 2007 has raised $1.3 million, and the estate of parishioner Leola Tobin provided an additional $800,000.
Funds provided new parish and school offices, a kitchen, basement, 120-person fellowship area and meeting room for the parish’s 100 youths — whom Vittetoe called the “most important part of a parish. If you don’t hang onto them, the church doesn’t have a future.”
He also spoke of the importance of having space for parishioners to socialize after Masses. The school gym has served that purpose in the past, while a Knights of Columbus hall across the street from the school has hosted and will continue to host large social events.
Also included in the hall is an item from St. James’ first church, a 19th-century stained-glass window bearing an image of the Nativity. Soon, a statue of St. James is slated to arrive.
“I think it’s wonderful,” longtime parishioner Audrey Reed said of the building. “It brings our church and school together.” She noted that the hall also would provide a quieter space to gather than the echo-prone school gym.
“It’s spacious and well organized, so everything flows nicely,” Steve Wolfer, parish volunteer, said.
“It looks wonderful,” Fr. Appel told parishioners during Mass, thanking those who’d donated supplies and resources. “Over the next 100 years, I hope we can get as much use as we can out of the new building.”