By Celine Klosterman
MUSCATINE — After years of holding religious education classes simultaneously at numerous, separate sites, Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish can now gather students in a single building.
On Dec. 4, the parish dedicated its $1.8 million, 14,000-square-foot Mazzuchelli Center designed for faith formation activities and other parish meetings. Bishop Martin Amos blessed the facility, which is named after parish founder Father Samuel Mazzuchelli and attached to Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School.
“The biggest benefit of this center is having us all together,” said Sister Cheryl Demmer, PBVM, the parish’s director of faith formation. Before the building’s completion, more than 400 religious education students were scattered among places including school staff rooms and, a mile from the school, St. Mathias Church, where Catholics used rooms such as closets and the sacristy.
Now, religious education teachers can get to know each other better, and all Catholics can better experience community, Sr. Demmer said. “This is what the body of Christ is all about.”
The Mazzuchelli Center includes eight classrooms, a youth room, offices, a conference room, multipurpose room, kitchenette and showers for overnight retreats. Catholics have used the building since holding a Teens Encounter Christ retreat there in February, said Chris Weber, Ss. Mary & Mathias’ director of youth and young adult ministry.
The facility was originally slated to be dedicated in August, but the ceremony was delayed after mold was discovered in the school. The mold has since been remediated.
In addition to fostering community, parish leaders said, the new center also offers a safer place for students to meet. Keeping track of all students is easier to do at one location, noted Father Jason Crossen, pastor. Also, in an emergency, it’s harder to lock down St. Mathias Church, the window-filled Gannon Hall and the former convent — which were used for religious education classes, Sr. Demmer said.
For many families, the new facility also means convenience. They no longer need to transport students in different grades to two separate buildings.
Parishioner Nate Howard, 15, said he likes the center’s “spacious” youth room with new furniture. Weber noted that having space specifically for the 75 middle- and high-school students in the youth program means Catholics no longer need to set up and tear down a room before and after meetings.
Fr. Crossen said he hopes future generations will grow in faith at the Mazzuchelli Center. “We’re thrilled to have it.”