Construction begins in Magnolia thanks to One Church

Groundbreaking of the parish hall expansion at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Magnolia was held July 12 with contractor Jeff Long (from left), pastor Father Mike Johns, parish council chairperson James Palazzi and parishioner Jose Huerta.
Groundbreaking of the parish hall expansion at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Magnolia was held July 12 with contractor Jeff Long (from left), pastor Father Mike Johns, parish council chairperson James Palazzi and parishioner Jose Huerta.

The parish hall expansion at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Magnolia wouldn’t have been possible without the support of One Church.

The diocesan initiative supports one parish for 12 months with a one-time financial boost to complete a much-needed project. All parishes in the diocese are asked to support One Church through a special collection or fundraiser. The program began in 2018 with the construction of the new St. Luke Church in Warren.

For the 2022-2023 year, the Magnolia church was chosen as the partner church. As of Aug. 14, $108,110 has been raised for the project.

Pastor Father Mike Johns said rising construction costs would have made it impossible to complete the project without One Church.

The parish complex includes a church, rectory and parish hall but never had office space, conference room and classrooms. The parish has been saving for at least five years to expand its parish hall to add space for faith formation for children and college students who attend nearby Southern Arkansas University.

On July 12, a groundbreaking was held for the 1,000-square-foot expansion, including offices for the pastor, director of religious education and secretary, a conference room where the college students and Knights of Columbus can meet and renovation of the parish hall bathrooms. In phase two, classrooms will be added, as well as renovating the parish hall kitchen, but that will have to happen in the years to come, the pastor said.

Initial estimates placed the phase one expansion at $350,000, but the contractor said it would be closer to $600,000, Father Johns said.

“For a while, I felt like I was chasing a rabbit I couldn’t catch,” Father Johns said, “because prices kept going up, and I couldn’t figure out where we were financially. One Church was the saving grace. If we weren’t chosen as the One Church beneficiary, there is no way we would have been able to start the project.”

With 80 percent of the money saved, the church was given the green light from the Diocese of Little Rock to begin construction.

Over the past 12 months, Father Johns has spoken at Masses and parish events in Jacksonville, El Dorado, Conway and Rogers to share about the Magnolia parish’s needs for space to offer faith formation to children and young adults. Currently, classes must be held in the parish hall and rectory. Father Johns said large donations from Christ the King Church in Little Rock and Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Hot Springs also were received.

“If I was swapping parishes on a weekend to speak on One Church, I would let the parishioners know and ask the parish to pray for those people,” the pastor said. “The people at the Magnolia parish are very grateful. It really helps cultivate a sense that we all belong to one diocese, and we all belong to each other. It is really overwhelming to receive support from so many parishes across the diocese.

“Sometimes a small rural parish can feel left out or forgotten by the diocese, but One Church really helps remind people that we all belong together, to each other.”

In five or six months, the parish will host a dedication of its parish hall expansion.

Donations can be made to the Magnolia project through Aug. 31 by mailing a check to Catholic Charities of Arkansas, 2500 N. Tyler St., Little Rock, AR 72207, with the notation "IHM Magnolia" or by visiting dolr.org/one-church.

Malea Hargett

Malea Hargett has guided the diocesan newspaper as editor since 1994. She finds strength in her faith through attending Walking with Purpose Bible studies at Christ the King Church in Little Rock.

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