Local News Archive
Print Issue: January 11, 1968
Holy Spirit Is A Church... A Gym
By Mary Lackie
Is it a church or a gymnasium? Holy Spirit center is both -- and a lot more. The building is a Catholic Church, an Episcopal Church and the home of a recreation program open to both congregations.
The basic element of community in modern life has to be the parish, said Father John McDonough, pastor. People can meet here for both spiritual and social activities. If we are to build community spirit in a parish, this is the way to do it, and I think it is working here.
The $350,000 center was completed in June 1967, and is located at the corner of Northside Drive and Mount Paran Road. The 12 classrooms surrounding the gymnasium are used for activities that range from religious education to slimnastics and sewing courses.
The 12-sided, domed center contains a cafeteria, kitchens, small chapel, and offices for Father McDonough and Father Don Harrison, pastor of St. Dunstans Episcopal Church. On Saturday night, the portable altar is moved to the gymnasium for the Sunday worship services of the two parishes.
The fact that two congregations share the center and retain their own identities proves that people of different faiths can work harmoniously in the areas of recreation, counseling and social activities, Father McDonough said. We have an open and friendly relationship because we are aware of what we are doing.
There is an easiness about the life here, Father Harrison commented. The center has changed my whole attitude toward ecumenism. The ecumenical movement held out a false promise and a false fear -- that the Church would become one huge monolithic structure. This was certainly met the intent of the theologians, but little filtered down to the people.
He said, The ecumenical movement can be a fine way of dealing with problems on a joint basis while still retaining an Anglican tradition and a Catholic tradition -- at the same time gaining a better understanding of both traditions. Beginning at the level we are here has erased some of the fear.
Confirmation classes for St. Dunstans teenagers were held at the center, and Father Michael Woods, assistant pastor of Holy Spirit, was asked to conduct the students on a tour of the chapel and discuss the sacraments with them.
The theology of penance is the same in both traditions, Father Harrison said. But the practice is different. The children learned with no prejudice and because we share the building they have an understanding of other ways.
The recreation program for the center was systematically planned, but cooperation between the two womens groups just happened Father Harrison said. The Christmas decorations for the altar were the work of a joint effort. The altar used to be the last place people would meet -- it should be the first place, the Episcopal priest commented.
We have four or five families with an Episcopalian and a Catholic husband or wife, said Father McDonough. Frequently couples will attend Mass together on Sundays and stay on for the Episcopal service.
With 60 families in St. Dunstans parish and 250 in Holy Spirit, there are some mixups on Sundays, Father Harrison said. One woman attended the Episcopal service, asked the usher what Mass it was, said a rosary and left an offering with the usher for collection.
The process of communication and education between the parishes is the beginning of a psychological breakdown of barriers the children might have with these other faiths, said Mitchell Elrod, senior warden and one of the founding fathers of St. Dunstans.
When we planned St. Dunstans, we saw the need for a relatively small, family oriented, neighborhood parish -- and this seems to be exactly what we have found here, Elrod said. By pooling our resources with Holy Spirit parish, we can be of greater service to the community.
The congregations share the organist-choirmaster, a Presbyterian seminarian, and pay his salary. Children and adults of both congregations participate in the recreation program.
Elrod said, These activities have served the purpose of getting the children together and many of us fathers go over and watch the games after we get home from work. The regulars are there for every game, and in that way, we get to know each other personally. We try to take part in all the family activities, said Mrs. James Maguire, chairman of the Holy Spirit Womens Guild. Our children attend Christ the King School and the recreation program gives them a chance to meet children in the neighborhood -- and hopefully gain a better understanding of other faiths. The recreation program has brought our family back around the parish center -- it is a part of our life. It may not be pleasing to everyone, but it is the most practical plan.
From my observation, it is very practical -- for Holy Spirit, said Bob Nagel, junior warden of St. Dunstans. They have done a wise thing by getting there first and building a gymnasium.
Nagel, who is a member of the mens basketball team said, From our standpoint, it is an excellent facility. Those of us who have children are pleased that the building is open to us. But it is really not an enriching experience -- the time element keeps us from getting together on Sundays, so we arent really acquainted. We may be during the year.
I have serious misgivings about the emphasis on the Church as a recreation hall, said Furman Smith, member of the Holy Spirit finance committee. The prime mission of the Church is to amuse people. The philosophy will work for awhile until you find out what happens when you bring up a whole generation of children with this attitude.
Recreation activities are supervised by Gary Puckett, former athletic director at Christ the King center. The program begins at 10:30 a.m. and continues until 10 p.m. Outlining the winter schedule, Puckett said, It is difficult to estimate the exact number of people participating, since different ones are involved all the time.
The schedule offers volleyball, slimnastics, first aid courses, drapery and drama classes, modern dance, slot-car racing and basketball for everyone from second graders to teenagers, with a mens basketball team and family night on Fridays.
Between 75-80 people participate in the free time activities, and special activities draw an estimated 200 participants. The program tends to tighten up and bring families together, Puckett said.
Mrs. Puckett, with her two small daughters as mascots, directed the cheerleaders. Mrs. Harrison coaches a girls basketball team. Father Woods assists Puckett with the recreation program. The informality gives Father Woods a chance to get acquainted with the children, Puckett said.
I can be friends with the altar boys who are on the basketball teams, Father Woods said. We go to the gym and shoot baskets and I get a chance to meet their families.
Father Woods is also moderator of the CYO which has sponsored a hayride, carnival, and basketball tournament. Pete Boyce, Marist senior and CYO president said, Working with the basketball teams and talking to fellows seems to develop interest in the CYO. The center has definitely created a friendly spirit among all age groups -- you are playing basketball with the fathers, not just CYO people. I think it adds more to community life when people know more about each other and work towards the same goal.
I am a regular participant in the liturgy of the overweight, said Bob Hochman of Holy Spirit parish. This is a new approach to Catholicism. We used to think that the Church was a place you went on Sundays - you were baptized there, married there and buried there. That was it.
We dont come into the center awed by the high cathedral ceiling, but I personally dont care if we ever have a grand edifice, as long as we grow in community life.
As a result of the recreation program the center is bringing the children and the children are bringing the parents, said Gene Stelton, president of Holy Spirit Mens Club. People are gathering around after church -- they are getting to know each other, he said.
The Mens Club recently completed two surveys intended to strengthen the spiritual life through social activities, Stelton said. We will use the surveys to determine future programs for the center. The final organizational meeting open to all men of the parish will be held Jan. 14 to complete plans and provide a sounding board for parish opinions, he said.
In an informal survey to determine the opinions of members of both congregations, the question was asked, What do you think of the center? The majority answered, Its marvelous.