St. Mary, Our Lady of Fatima projects have future in mind

Parishes taking part in Wave 3 of Home Campaign are thinking ahead as fundraising efforts take place                          

By Emily Booker

Being a lasting, engaged, and vital component of the community is a lot like farming: it all starts by cultivating the soil and planting seeds.

As part of Wave 3 of the Home Campaign, St. Mary Church in Oak Ridge and Our Lady of Fatima Church in Alcoa are using the campaign to make sure their home parishes are prepared to continue on in their communities for years to come.

At St. Mary, goals for the campaign include refurbishing the cafeteria into a multi-use social hall, creating a walking path, increased campus security, and other improvements. All the projects aim to strengthen the parish for a long and lasting future.

“We offered a day for parishioners to come and be shown around the campus to see where the improvements would be so people could ask any questions,” said Father Brent Shelton, St. Mary pastor.

That way, people were able to see exactly what the Home Campaign would do for St. Mary.

The new social hall will have better lighting and sound. There will also be new, lighter furniture, making it easier to utilize the space for all sorts of activities. Father Shelton hopes it serves as a regular social meeting place for the parish and a welcoming space for guests and visitors.

The 4,500-foot walking path will not only benefit parishioners but the whole community. It will encourage people to spend more time exercising outdoors and provide an easy-to-access space to do so right on St. Mary’s campus. Father Shelton sees the walking path as a way to “express the vitality of the church to the community.”

“Our church history is unusual,” Father Shelton said. “We have a clear foundation with the Manhattan Project. Our future isn’t as clear.” While Oak Ridge National Laboratory still serves as a large employer in Oak Ridge, the town has not had substantial commercial growth in the past several years.

But St. Mary Parish is dedicated to remaining a thriving part of the Oak Ridge community. Even if a community isn’t growing in numbers, it can still grow in spirituality and fellowship. St. Mary is doing just that.

“We want to project an image for the future, an image stating we are a vibrant parish,” Father Shelton said.

Our Lady of Fatima in Alcoa is also preparing for a vibrant future. Several of its Home Campaign projects are aimed to help the church adjust to a growing parish family. The Alcoa/Maryville area is experiencing a lot of growth, which has led to growth at OLOF as well.

Father Bill McKenzie, pastor of OLOF, said, “We’ve been growing pretty steadily, and I don’t see much change in that over the next few years.”

One project of OLOF’s Home Campaign is to expand and remodel the current adoration chapel in order to hold daily Mass there. OLOF has two daily Masses, both with attendance of 25-40 people. By using the adoration chapel, the church will save energy by not having to heat or cool the entire building for its daily Masses.

Another way in which the Home Campaign will improve parish space is through the addition of a new music room. The current music room will be converted into four classrooms available for religious education, adult faith formation, and parish meetings.

By improving the space of the church, parishioners will have easier access to worship, learn, and continue their ministries.

Father McKenzie sees the importance of looking at the needs of the entire community and making sure the parish is ready to meet those needs.

“We want to recognize that we are part of something greater than ourselves,” he said. “We’re not just a little parish here. We’re part of the diocese. We’re also part of Maryville and Alcoa. Our mission and ministry has to be focused on our involvement and our participation in what we are in the bigger picture.”

Wave 3 is the final wave of the Home Campaign. For more information on the campaign, including details on each parish’s campaign projects, visit ■

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