By Joe DeSalvo
Blessed Trinity Catholic Church’s longstanding goal of building a facility to enrich its parish community and ministries as well as provide a “home’’ court for the school’s basketball and volleyball teams became reality on Nov. 7 when its new Family Life Center was dedicated.
The new 14,614 square-foot building is centered between the school and parish hall. It includes a gymnasium with fixed bleachers, tournament basketball and volleyball courts. The court is a durable REC 60, providing more cushioning and a thicker wear layer.
The Family Life Center also includes two well-equipped conference rooms (St. Teresa of Avila and St. Padre Pio) on the west side of the facility and a larger conference room on the east side (Our Lady of Lourdes). There are also a large storage room with designated areas for various ministries, restrooms and a concession area.
A palm-lined courtyard with 10 metal tables, attached benches and umbrellas complements the building.
It was the vision of Fr. Denis O’Regan, the pastor who led the construction of a new church in 1992, to have such a facility. He died in August 2005.
The $2.8 million project actually was completed ahead of schedule — less than 12 months after last year’s groundbreaking. The energy-efficient facility was designed by Tom Norman of Ebert Norman Brady Architects and built by Tim Young Construction, Inc. They worked closely with BTCC’s project team, including Father Jhon Guarnizo, parish business administrator Lorraine Montoto, school principal Marie Davis, and parishioners Sal Turso, Frank Saladino, and Dave Cooper.
The construction project manager representing the parish was Buckley K. Williams, certified construction contract administrator and executive vice president of England-Thims & Miller, Inc. He also served as master of ceremonies at the dedication ceremony.
“What makes this day special is recognizing the sacrifice that we have all made and seeing that sacrifice realized for us today and as a true legacy for generations to come,’’ Williams told a gathering of more than 250, who had a chance to take of the tour afterward and enjoy a champagne toast.
Father Jhon Guarnizo, who’s been Blessed Trinity’s pastor for more than seven years, is equally appreciative.
“You feel like everything is done — everything that you have been dreaming, accomplishing and organizing, is done,’’ he said. “All of the efforts put together are done.
“It was an effort we did together and everybody, little by little, contributed — a little and a lot,’’ Father Guarnizo said. “Every single penny, every single dollar; the support was amazing to see this building get done.’’
The parish, with just under 1,300 registered families, received pledges of nearly $1.2 million from 916 of those families, allowing it to obtain diocesan financing.
A hard-working Legacy Committee also was instrumental in generating additional funds and support with several fundraisers during the past 18 months. The latest is a sponsorship initiative that got underway in November. Sponsorships range from $50,000 for the gym court to $50 for a conference room chair.
“I think what we’re showing to the community is that whatever we are thinking, we’re ready to do it,’’ Father Guarnizo said. “If we are committed, we are ready to do it. We are showing just not only to our own community, but to the other parishes that we have been doing many beautiful things these past years.’’
Bishop Felipe Estévez attended the dedication and was impressed with Blessed Trinity’s determination to have this facility built, considering the bulk of construction was done during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“2020 will be remembered as a very difficult year, but the community of Blessed Trinity one God has done such an achievement of working together to accomplish this in record time,’’ Bishop Estévez told the crowd before going inside to bless the entire facility. “It is the community working together as the apostles say, ‘One mind, one heart.’ When there is unity of ‘one mind, one heart,’ a family stays strong.
“When we are together, good things happen. And I witness the good things happening at Blessed Trinity,’’ he said. “It is almost like the energy cannot be contained. You do something and you continue on in spite of the obstacles. … I want to commend you all for that vitality that reflects this parish, for the vitality that honors unity and faith.’’
For Davis, Blessed Trinity Catholic School’s only principal for the past 22 years, she has never lost faith that one day she would see a gymnasium for the school, which has a current enrollment of 218 students.
She came close to getting a gym built in 2008 when Norman actually designed one, but the economy was hit with a recession and those plans were shelved. A much-needed concession area next to the outdoor playing fields, with restrooms and storage, was built instead.
Blessed Trinity was able to use Holy Spirit’s gym for “home’’ boys and girls basketball games. However, the Eagles volleyball team has never played as the home team. That changed two days after the Family Life Center’s dedication when the Eagles hosted St. Elizabeth Ann Seton of Palm Coast. The score didn’t matter on this day. It was a victory for the school community.
“We feel so complete now. We have everything that any other school or campus has,’’ Davis said. “Even the addition of the Palm Court between the gym and school ties it all together. It’s not only that we have our gymnasium, but we still have all of our outdoor sports facilities, too, that have been kept in good condition. It’s very exciting to say that we have it all.’’
And for trivia buffs, the first-ever basketball free throw taken in the Family Life Center gym was taken by Bishop Estévez.
The bishop was holding court eight minutes before the start of the dedication ceremony outside when Davis asked the bishop if he would like to take the first shot in the gym, presumably after the ceremony.
“You want me to do that now?’’ the bishop asked Davis.
“Sure, come on,’’ she said.
”I’m so happy that he agreed to do that,’’ said Davis, who had Bishop Estévez autograph the basketball. “It turned out to be a nice little addition to the whole blessing. I think he enjoyed that, too.’’
Davis should enjoy the enrollment period for the 2021-22 school year that will start in January.
“We’re looking forward to giving some nice tours,’’ Davis said. “Instead of, ‘Here’s where the building is going to be,’ now the building is there. It’s a great feeling when you walk into it. It’s something everybody is proud of.
“Our theme this year is ‘perseverance’ and I think this is what we’ve done,’’ she said. “Congratulations to everybody who put their effort into this wonderful building.’’
Blessed Trinity is located at 10472 Beach Blvd. in Jacksonville. For more information, call (904) 641-1414 for the church office and (904) 641-6458 for the school office. Websites are btccjax.org and blessedtrinitycatholicschool.org. Video from the Nov. 7 Family Life Center dedication as well as a virtual tour, with the use of a camera drone, can be found on the church’s Facebook page.
Photos by Woody Huband/St. Augustine Catholic