Archbishop Richard Smith breaks ground for the long-awaited start of construction on Corpus Christi Church in southeast Edmonton.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Archbishop Richard Smith breaks ground for the long-awaited start of construction on Corpus Christi Church in southeast Edmonton.

March 17, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Jumping into a backhoe, Archbishop Richard Smith carved the frozen ground at 3307-28A Ave. signalling that construction of the Church of Corpus Christi can now begin.

With shiny new shovels, dignitaries and Church officials helped in the symbolic task.

It was a festive ground-breaking ceremony complete with an outdoor procession, a large fire, chocolate and pastries.

Onlookers watched with awe and anxiety as Smith tried to operate the backhoe. When he succeeded, with help from the real operator, the archbishop smiled and threw his hands up in triumph. The public applauded.

Previously, the archbishop had blessed the site, sprinkling it with holy water. During his homily he congratulated parishioners and Father Jim Corrigan, the pastor of St. Theresa/Corpus Christi, for their commitment and perseverance.

"This is a sign of your great love for the Church," he said at the March 8 ceremony. "As this building goes up, it will be a sign of God's presence in our midst and a tribute to you for making this parish a vibrant community of faith."

SCHOOL GYMS

Corpus Christi was designated a parish in 2001 and some of its 300 families have been celebrating Mass in school gyms since 2004. It grew out of St. Theresa's Parish in Millwoods which, at more than 5,000 families, is the largest in the Edmonton Archdiocese.

Parishioners and other members of the Catholic community traverse the grounds of the future Corpus Christi Church on March 8.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Parishioners and other members of the Catholic community traverse the grounds of the future Corpus Christi Church on March 8.

Corpus Christi will be the first Catholic church built in the Edmonton area since Holy Trinity was completed in Spruce Grove in 2002.

"We are really excited," said Randy Phillips, Corpus Christi's finance committee chair. "It's been a long time coming."

Construction is expected to begin at the end of March and "we will have a Mass there before Christmas 2015," vowed Corrigan.

The church will be a magnificent 4,400-square-metre facility with seating for 1,500 people. It will cost about $14 million, $2 million less than originally predicted. So far $5.5 million has been raised.

"The generosity of our parishioners, other parishes, Knights of Columbus councils, Catholic Women's League councils, priests and other donors within the archdiocese has been very heartwarming," says Corrigan.

Fr. Jim Corrigan, Corpus Christi's pastor, is pleased with donations from other parishes.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Fr. Jim Corrigan, Corpus Christi's pastor, is pleased with donations from other parishes.

"Truly we are all building this church, God's house, together."

OTHER PARISHES CONTRIBUTE

At least a dozen parishes have offered financial assistance to build the new church, he said, including one that pledged $75,000 over five years, another that gave $100,000 and yet another that donated $500,000 following the sale of its assets.

"For me, it is not so much the amount but the fact they are able to look outside their church," Corrigan said.

The rest of the money will be raised by welcoming new families into Corpus Christi, the priest said. Soon the parish will be sending parishioners out in pairs to do that. "That will help our bottom line, I know it will."

The building design, by Sergio Poles of HFKS Architects, incorporates a balance between economics and environmental stewardship. It includes a glass-walled chapel facing 34th Street.

"It is shaped like a lantern as it is meant to be a light for the community," noted Corrigan. A circular window above the chapel symbolizes Corpus Christi, Latin for the Body of Christ.