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St. Peter Family Life Center dedicated to community

Feast of the Epiphany — Celebrating a Feast of the Epiphany Mass Jan. 6 just before dedication of the St. Peter Catholic Church Family Life Center are, from left, St. Peter Pastor Father Tom Connery, Bishop John Noonan, Father Frank Zammit and Deacon Kurt Slafkovsky.

Feast of the Epiphany — Celebrating a Feast of the Epiphany Mass Jan. 6 just before dedication of the St. Peter Catholic Church Family Life Center are, from left, St. Peter Pastor Father Tom Connery, Bishop John Noonan, Father Frank Zammit and Deacon Kurt Slafkovsky.

BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN

A view of the exterior of the St. Peter Family Life Center.

A view of the exterior of the St. Peter Family Life Center.

BEACON PHOTO/ERIKA WEBB

Songs of joy — The St. Peter Catholic School choir, accompanied by a few parishioners’ adult voices, entertains at the dedication of the DeLand church’s Family Life Center Jan. 6.

Songs of joy — The St. Peter Catholic School choir, accompanied by a few parishioners’ adult voices, entertains at the dedication of the DeLand church’s Family Life Center Jan. 6.

BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN

St. Peter Catholic School student Gil Hernandez has the honor of sinking the first basket in the gymnasium of the new Family Life Center. 

St. Peter Catholic School student Gil Hernandez has the honor of sinking the first basket in the gymnasium of the new Family Life Center. 

With Father Tom Connery looking on at left, Father Frank Zammit draws a ticket to determine who will have the honor of shooting the first basket in the new gymnasium inside the St. Peter Family Life Center.

With Father Tom Connery looking on at left, Father Frank Zammit draws a ticket to determine who will have the honor of shooting the first basket in the new gymnasium inside the St. Peter Family Life Center.

Jubilant cheers and clapping erupted as the first balls swooshed, christening the nets in a spacious new gymnasium. Clergy members and youngsters of all ages dribbled, aimed, launched, missed and sank brand-new basketballs, providing a glimpse into what the future holds at the long-awaited St. Peter Catholic Parish Family Life Center.

Gathered in the 27,000-square-foot building for a dedication Jan. 6, a large crowd of people young, old and in-between sang “This Little Light of Mine (I’m gonna let it shine),” giving thanks and promising to promote family values and inclusiveness in the new space at 359 W. New York Ave. in DeLand.

The celebratory atmosphere, compounded by a strong sense of community, were exactly what the center’s visionaries hoped for.

“This is for the future,” St. Peter Pastoral Associate Rick Grinstead told hundreds of people who attended the dedication. “Give yourselves a hand for thinking of the future.”

The $4.25 million project was 10 years in the making. A building campaign begun in 2008 was interrupted by the economic recession, and active planning for the Family Life Center was suspended.

In 2011, fundraising resumed. Over the next five years, parishioners donated $2.8 million, including loans from the Lacey Family Foundation and the Diocese of Orlando.

On dedication day, $913,116 remained to be collected for the Family Life Center fund.

“This structure will broaden our outreach and provide many more opportunities to reach out and affect our community,” St. Peter Pastor Father Tom Connery wrote in a letter to the congregation.

And, Father Tom suggested, “Imagine Oktoberfest 2.0.”

Some elements of the popular annual Oktoberfest fundraiser will move inside the Family Life Center, which has a dining hall and commercial kitchen, several classrooms and a youth “roomnasium” with locker rooms. That change will free up outdoor space for rides and parking.

Longtime parishioner and retired St. Peter Catholic School teacher and Principal Joan Kinsey beamed throughout the dedication.

“The Family Life Center is the result of prayer, generosity and sacrifice of the parish community,” Kinsey said. “I look at it as, really, a blessing and a safe environment, not only for our school children but for our parish children. And it’s going to help with our parish ministries.”

Some of those attending the dedication arrived early for a Feast of the Epiphany Mass that packed the church, with Bishop John Noonan of the Orlando Diocese on hand to officiate.

Noonan drew a parallel between the Magi — those wise men bearing gifts for the newly born Jesus — and a modern-day community bestowing the gift of a gathering place for those seeking and doing God’s will.

Christmas carols were sung, and late-afternoon sunlight streamed through the stained glass, casting additional warmth on a fired-up congregation.

Mike Grebosz, DeLand’s assistant city manager, and his family, slid into a pew. He and Mayor Bob Apgar, seated two rows back, exchanged smiles. City Manager Michael Pleus and his wife, Vickie, also were in attendance.

Recalling the dedication of her late husband, Deacon Bob Kinsey, to the Family Life Center project, Joan Kinsey said she pictured him smiling, maybe even lending a hand from heaven to its completion.

— Erika Webb, erika@beacononlinenews.com

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