Sacred Heart Catholic Church expects to begin moving a variety of ministries into a new 50,000-square-foot multipurpose building when it is completed at the end of October.
The church’s pastor, Monsignor Fred Nijem, said two wings of the building will become home to Sacred Heart School and house elementary and middle school students, while other areas will provide space for a social hall, house church administrative offices and make room for other ministries.
Nijem said aging facilities currently in use are spread across the church’s campus on the east side of South Davis Drive, while parish offices and the Sacred Heart’s social services ministries are across the street on the west side of South Davis.
He said the new facility, which is in close proximity to a new worship center Sacred Heart parishioners moved into in 2007, will help foster a new sense of unity as ministries move closer together.
“It’s very inconvenient, if not to say confusing, to have things the way they are now,” Nijem said. “Having our parish offices a block away from the church and everything so spread out can be difficult for people and has caused confusion for some trying to find us.”
Nijem said the biggest impact will likely be on the church’s school.
“Everyone’s excited, but I think our teachers are the most excited,” he said. “They can’t wait to get out of the old building, which is close to 65 years old, and into the new. It’s a much better facility for them and for our children and designed for the latest technology for students and teachers. I trust it will attract new students, too.”
Nijem said the school has averaged around 175 students for the past several years in an aging facility with some students having class in trailers and makeshift spaces. He said the two new wings will provide 12 classrooms built to accommodate up to 25 students each.
“We’re very proud of our school and the outstanding young citizens it’s trained both educationally and in character.”
He said the school, which began in 1955, includes non-Catholic students and has a staff of close to two dozen.
Nijem said the school will not relocate until January 2017, after Christmas holidays, in order to create the least interruption to the school year.
“As for the new social hall, we’ll keep our present parish activity center, which was built in 1993 and has a gymnasium we’ve used for many types of gatherings,” he said. “The new social hall will offer nicer, enhanced space for meetings of up to 500 people. It will be nicer and used for gatherings of all sorts, like weeding receptions. There’ll be sliding partitions for smaller, multiple gatherings at once or space to seat the larger groups.”
Nijem said he wasn’t sure when administrative offices will move to the new building. But he said saying hello to new spaces will mean saying goodbye to old spaces that have been part of both the church’s and Warner Robins’ history.
He said all the church’s old sanctuary facilities, as well as the old school building and offices, are up for sale.
“Two previous church buildings, one built in 1945 and the other 1964, are being sold,” he said. “We’ll be entertaining any offers for the buildings and the school.”
Though sad in one way, Nijem said the parish’s 1,600 families were more excited about prospects for the new facility and the future than nostalgic about the old.
“People realize we can’t maintain all these facilities and pay for the new one,” he said. “I believe the greater cooperation and spirit of community this physical move will bring will be well worth it.”
Nijem, who came to the church in 1990, said investment in the new facility, without furnishings, will be close to $9 million.
“We built the activity center when I came to the church, then the new church in 2007 and now this,” he said. “Construction began on the new building November of 2015 and is being handled by Azer+Walsh Architects and Sheridan Construction. They designed and built the new church as well and the whole thing will have a common, unified look. Also, this new project will add a covered, drive-through canopy to the church building that we weren’t able to build originally.”
Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church
Address: 251 South Davis Drive
Leadership: Monsignor Fred Nijem