RALEIGH, N.C. — The community of St. Francis of Assisi Parish celebrated the blessing of a new learning center on its 35-acre site last week, an energy-efficient structure that completes its $13 million green building construction program.
The Siena Center for Lifelong Learning is the last of four new buildings to open in the past year, including Elizabeth Hall, St. Mary of the Angels Chapel and the Assisi Community Center. All buildings are model green structures and were recognized last week by the U.S. Green Building Council, which awards its coveted energy efficiency ratings.
On Jan. 31, the USGBC awarded Elizabeth Hall, St. Mary of the Angels Chapel and the Assisi Community Center with the top Leadership in Energy and Environmental certification award. The Siena Center is expected to also receive LEED certification. “The attainment of any level of LEED certification is a rarity,” pastor Mark Reamer, OFM, said, especially for a church.
Jan. 31 was a great day for the community, according to Mark in his weekly message to parishioners last Sunday. Raleigh Bishop Michael Burbidge and Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, were key participants in the celebration.
“The day began with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Burbidge, who spoke of ‘our gifts, our call, and our mission,’” Mark said. He then blessed the cornerstone bricks of the Siena Center, and spent a few moments recognizing Catholic Schools Week by speaking with students at the parish’s Franciscan School.
John said he was impressed with the parish’s expansion, especially how the green buildings support the Franciscans mission of caring for the environment. “I had the opportunity to address the staff and administration of the parish and Franciscan school at a luncheon, and later that day, to address those who attended the LEED certification ceremony.”
“The ceremony itself was very impressive with the mayor of Raleigh, the local congressman, and several EPA officials present, as well as the bishop,” he added. “That evening, the bishop joined the friars for a delicious meal at the friary. All in all, it was a great celebration and a great tribute to the hard work of Fr. Mark, the friars, and their partners in ministry.”
Dedication and Certification
The center, which houses the middle school classrooms of The Franciscan School, also “serves as the hub of the evangelization ministries.”
“We received great accolades as a community,” Mark said. “Fr. John congratulated us on behalf of the Franciscan family throughout the world for our commitment to the values of Francis of Assisi. U.S. Rep. David Price, on behalf the U.S. Congress, presented us with a flag flown over the Capitol expressing how challenging it is to receive LEED gold level, and applauded our commitment as a faith community to the environment. He also commended Bill Laxton, chair of the building committee, for all he has done in serving our nation through his work with the environmental protection agency. Mayor Charles Meeker, applauded our faithfulness to the environment, and also our involvement within the city of Raleigh, in reaching out to those who hunger and thirst for human dignity.”
The $13 million project to expand the St. Francis campus has been in the works since 2004, according to an article in the Raleigh News Observer, which said, “But from the get-go, church members were committed to building in an environmentally and socially responsible way.”
“One of our first goals was preserving the natural environment,” said Laxton, who led the church’s building committee.
According to a description on the Diocese of Raleigh website, the bishop “engaged the students, asking them to reflect and comment on ‘Our Gifts, Our Call, Our Mission,’ the theme of the 2011 Bishop’s Annual Appeal. He explained how they relate to each student. He also asked them to share what makes The Franciscan School special, especially as it pertains to service to the community. Noting their eager responses, Bishop Burbidge told the students how proud he was of them, and asked them to thank their parents and teachers with applause.”
“It was a great day of celebration,” Mark said in the Feb. 6 parish bulletin.
Several friars based at the parish or have affiliations with the community participated in the event. They include Julian Jagudilla, OFM, David McBriar, OFM, William McConville, OFM, and Emmet Murphy, OFM.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for the Province.