by Michael Raia
On Sunday, April 9, students and parents at St. Mary's Catholic Center at Texas A&M University received a treat – a sneak peak at the New Church Capital Campaign. Packed into the church, chapel, and activity center for Palm Sunday / Parents' Weekend Masses, overflow crowds – a common occurrence for the Catholic Aggies on busy weekends – provided the perfect audience to show off the updated master plan, renderings of the upcoming St. John Paul II Student Center Addition, and the centerpiece of the new campaign: the conceptual design for a New Church.
Built on the values of Beauty, Encounter, and Tradition, the Campaign aims to raise the funds to build a beautiful, 1,600-seat traditional church building across the street from the existing Student Center (built in 1998) potentially by 2022. The new church will allow the existing church building (built in 1958) to continue to serve as a chapel for daily Masses and other functions. The addition will cooperate with City of College Station plans for the historic Northgate District to increase urban density and provide pedestrian-friendly architecture, landscape, and general curb appeal. And while the design for the new church is impressive in scale, its two 18- and 16-story high-rise housing neighbors will certainly remain the most dominant landmarks seen from a distance – a local trend that for the moment is not appearing to show signs of slowing down. Potential partnership developments on two blocks to the northwest of the existing and future St. Mary's campus facilities offers a likely vertical parking solution to replace the surface-lot spaces lost to the construction of the new church.
The St. John Paul II Student Center Addition should be completed for the start of classes in the Fall of 2018. The full build-out of the master plan, starting with the Phase 1 Student Center Addition and Phase 2 New Church, envisions a covered drop-off linking the crosswalk to the new Student Center lobby to a future Parish Hall via a brick arcade walkway that forms a cloistered plaza for the church. Additional components are a Rosary Garden planned for the northeast corner of the church that extends into a busy residential corner, a gathering plaza in front of the Hannigan Chapel, and a more fully developed St. Mary's park in the event the rectory is displaced in the future.