Local News Archive
Print Issue: July 23, 1987
Many Hands Make Light Work
By Paula Day
Community effort -- teamwork -- working together are old-fashioned ideas that are still in style at Christ Our Hope parish in southeast DeKalb County.
Because of this teamwork, the parish will dedicate its first permanent place of worship at the 10 a.m. liturgy, Sunday Aug. 2.
Monsignor John McDonough will officiate at the ceremony. The liturgy of dedication will be concelebrated by Father John Kieran, pastor, his brother, Father Richard Kieran, and other priests of the archdiocese. On July 19, parish members celebrated with their pastor their first liturgy in the new building after attending Sunday Masses for three years in Lithonia's public high school.
Describing the teamwork that made the parish's new place of worship a reality, Ron Gauthier, chairman of the decorating committee, said, "A lot of hidden work was done by many, many people, -- all together it was a total community effort."
The parish, which encompasses an area of southeast DeKalb County east of Panola Road and Stone Mountain-Lithonia Road and south of Rockbridge Road, has 155 registered families. It has not had the growth that was originally projected, according to Father Kieran. With its own place of worship he hopes the parish will now grow.
The multi-purpose building, to be dedicated Aug. 2, is shaped like an inverted T. The central section, now to be used as the area for worship, can be divided by partitions that slide into existing pockets in the wall. The extending cross bars of the building contain classrooms, a food preparation area and church offices. All can be expanded without altering the present structure.
Budget and attention to parishioners' ideas have been a concern since the project began.
"Because we're a small community, we have severe budget limitations," said Bill Newman, finance committee chairman. "We did a lot of unusual things ourselves. For example, parishioners put in 500 plus feet of utility lines from the street to where the builders could tap in. We did it for $3,000. It would have cost $5,000. Another example, -- we got a quote of $4,000 for landscaping -- for sod. We put it down ourselves for $1,800.
This community effort has paid off. According to Father Kieran, the new building cost $300,000 and the whole project, to date, is below budget at $500,000.
To get this kind of parish involvement is no accident. Because architectural blueprints are hard to envision, Joe M. Cumbie, building committee chairman, built a scale model of the proposed sanctuary to help parishioners see what was being planned and to gain their approval of it.
Parishioners who donated the eight panels of stained glass also selected the panels' themes. For example, one family with a majority of male members named Michael, wanted their donated panel to depict St. Michael the Archangel in some way. Another woman who is involved in the charismatic movement asked that the Holy Spirit be the focus of her donated panel. A family, particularly devoted to Mary, requested a panel with a Marian theme. This theme selection gave donors a further sense of involvement in the project. The panels, as well as the five by eight foot cross above the sanctuary were constructed by Gauthier.
Women on the decorating committee gave input on all aspects of the interior's furnishings, according to Gauthier, who chaired the committee. They coordinated the beige-brown tones of the carpet and upholstery to achieve a soft, warm effect. They suggested that the stained glass panels pick up the colors in the cross. Every aspect of the cross, which took four days to create, has symbolic meaning, Gauthier points out. The 10 pieces of red glass, for example, represent the 10 commandments, the 12 horseshoe nails that make up the crown of thorns, represent the 12 Apostles.
Gauthier, a professional artist who works in stained glass, describes Christ Our Hope as "a warm, loving parish." He is quick to point out that "a lot of people who don't have a special gift like I have" put hours into the less spectacular jobs, and their efforts are equally responsible for the final product.
"There was a staining and finishing crew, a landscaping and grounds crew, a crew that installed the cabinets and bookcases, a crew that washed windows. Someone who couldn't reach high or climb a ladder would ask, 'What can I do?' We'd say, 'Here's some Windex and a razor blade -- do what you can reach.' Some would vacuum the rugs and dust. A group of men with wheelbarrows went around picking up all the trash the builders left and carried it to the burner."
Joe Cumbie was responsible for the building's functional design. Careful planning went into assuring its multi-purpose feature, even after its conversion to a parish center when the future church is built.
Cumbie, who has made a life-long hobby of working with wood, built the maple/birch box that holds the tabernacle, the podium and lectern, the vessel and gifts tables. He refurbished the donated altar and constructed the six-by-eleven-foot illumination box that holds the overhanging stained glass cross.
Parishioner Joe Morgan, who designed the sanctuary lighting, kept the planned flexibility in mind. The system consists of spotlights directed at special areas and dimmers that can be used now for liturgical drama and, later, for parish productions.
The new Christ Our Hope worship center also contains special links with the past. A 90-year-old stained glass panel from a demolished Catholic church in Pennsylvania is placed in the wall above the front doors. It is a gift of the Frank Correale family whose grandfather had donated it to the original Pennsylvania church. The refurbished altar, donated by Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Atlanta, came to Christ Our Hope from "leaky storage." The tabernacle, also refurbished, came from St. Joseph's parish in Athens. The used organ was once part of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lilburn's worship service.
This bringing together of old and new, of well-established and newly founded, gives a sense of connection, of roots, to the parish's first permanent structure.
Every community needs its leader; every team, its captain. Pastor John Kieran, any casual observer would soon note, is one who leads by working alongside (and above) his parishioners. After an hour's struggle at the top of an extended ladder to fix in place the parish logo, Father Kieran came down to survey the job with the three men who had struggled with him. It took him about 20 seconds, he recalls, to realize they had put the logo up backward. Together with parishioner Mac McIquham, Father Kieran built the three crosses that form a backdrop for the entrance sign to the parish property.
The name of the parish was inspired from the opening words of Saint Paul in his first letter to Timothy: "Christ Jesus our hope."
The parish logo combines the Chi (X) and Rho (P), the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ, with the anchor cross, an early sign of Christian hope.
It is Father Kieran's hope that the new building, especially dedicated to parish worship, will inspire growth of the recently formed parish community.
Future plans for Christ Our Hope parish include building a church. However, Father Kieran sees that project as being 10 years off. More immediately, the house which has served as rectory, parish offices and parish meeting hall is being sold. Proceeds from it will be used to help build a small parish rectory. Ten acres of the 20 purchased in 1984 have been developed. The remainder is on the market under contract. Proceeds from this land sale will help reduce the parish debt.