(This article includes excerpts from a booklet compiled by John Rajczyk and James Warthman in 2000.)
In June 1987, [35 years ago!] the location of our new parish was changed from the site on San Gabriel Ave. to the new site on Knox Rd and 36th St. Although our site on San Gabriel was beautiful, it also had insurmountable problems, such as low visibility compared to other parishes and the high volume of traffic in and out of a residential neighborhood. These factors, plus others, dictated that we try to seek another site.
Our thanks go to Frank Labriola and his late wife, Mary, for their generous contribution of land to Corpus Christi Catholic Church. Their donation saved the church a tremendous amount of money. Without their contribution, there would have been a delay in the starting date for the buildings.
As Ahwatukee and the surrounding area grew, so did Corpus Christi. What started as a parish of about 300 registered families, soon grew to 1,000, 1,500… 2,500 to 3,000 families! It was obvious that our multi-purpose church/parish center could not hold the worshippers. Even though there were four Masses on Sunday morning, as well as one on Saturday evening, the mid-morning Sunday Masses were filled to capacity with standing room only and some people even standing outside. Not only was our worship space inadequate, but also our offices for our parish staff and our religious education staff needed to be expanded. Over 1,000 children attended religious education classes each week. The parishioners’ overwhelmingly supported phase three, the final major phase of our building program. Before this could happen, however, the City of Phoenix Zoning Department and the Building Commission of the Diocese of Phoenix mandated additional parking. Thanks again to Frank and Mary Labriola’s generosity, we were able to meet the requirement when they donated the land south of the existing lot.
The estimated cost of the new church building was more than $2.5 million. Pete Salcido, Bob Prezkop, and Tom Mooney chaired the building committee. Our generous parishioners pledged more than $1.9 million over a three-year period. The groundbreaking took place on Sunday, March 24, 1996. and was unique in many ways.
As Pamela Nunes shared with our staff member, Kathleen, “Tom and I lived just up the road and could walk here easily! We were asked to bring some dirt from our yard – just in an envelope – and when they dug the hole, we all sprinkled our dirt in there, so that we were part of the foundation of the church!”
Kurt Wagner, chairman of the Building Committee, also relayed a story to Kathleen. “I did four tours in Vietnam and once, while there, I filled a jar with sand. When we broke ground, I brought that jar and poured it into the ground where the sanctuary would eventually be. This way, our veterans will always be remembered and represented in a special way.”
Soil from the Holy Land was also included in the foundation. Twelve golden shovels were on hand that day so parishioners could take turns digging in and be included in the groundbreaking. Our parishioners were filled with excitement and expectation as each week they watched the foundation and walls go up and finally the roof. When the church opened, their enthusiastic approval was unanimous. They had truly built a church for the glory of God.
On Sunday, February 2, 1997 [25 years ago!] Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien celebrated the dedication of our new church with a beautiful ceremony. The altar was anointed with Holy Oils, as were the walls of the church, setting the building apart as a sacred place. We were also reminded that we, the people, are the church. Our parish fulfilled a long-cherished dream of establishing Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament – one of the very few parishes in the Diocese to have such a devotion.
While the history behind the accomplishment of our building is impressive, we must always remember that parishes are not just brick and mortar. The people are the heart and soul of a parish, and together, as one body in Christ, the parish exists for us to increase our knowledge and love of God.BACK TO LIST