By TANYA KATNIC     12/13/2023

One glance at the new building being erected on the St. Cecilia campus in Tustin, and one might assume that a new parish hall has sprouted up. But in fact, it is a new meeting room building – designed to meet the demands of a growing and diverse parish community.

Fr. Bao took a year to learn the lay of the land, which included assessing the needs of the parish and parishioners. Donors across cultural backgrounds were approached, many of whom responded positively, and this was an indication that the people would stand behind and be supportive of the project.

“Thanks be to God that He granted us with many generous faithful standing behind to support the campaign through prayer, treasure and time,” said Fr. Bao.

The 10,138 square-foot edifice, which is being built by Finn Construction and Development Inc., is comprised of two stories, each partitioned for meetings. However, there is a twist: The second floor (5,235 square feet) has six rooms with fixed walls, while the first (4,903 square feet) has movable wall space that can be divided into up to four smaller spaces.

The maximum occupancy is 668.

Aric Gless, senior architect at Plump Engineering, is the project’s architect. He is also a parishioner.

Gless provided some of the backstory on the building.

“The project began in 2000, under the guidance of now-deceased Fr. Tim McCarthy,” he explained. “After his retirement, the project was halted. It was resurrected by Fr. Bao Thai, who was later reassigned to Christ Cathedral as the Rector. Now Fr. Khoi is bringing us to the finish line.”

Gless continued, “So many people have waited to see this building happen. Many are no longer with us. I’m glad that the many who have waited for this will finally be able to use it.”

Fr. Bao Thai, Fr. Khoi’s predecessor, began the capital campaign for the project as the newly minted Administrator in 2015.

“Because I was the new leader, I needed to earn trust from the parishioners,” he said. “Thus, I waited a year to begin the campaign. It was a challenge to generate the list of benevolent donors within the parish across all cultural backgrounds. Thanks be to God that He granted us with many generous faithful standing behind to support the campaign through prayer, treasure and time.”

In order to finance the property, the church had to sell two rental properties on Charloma that provided rental income.

“In 1993, the parish started to raise money for building funds,” explained Fr. Bao. “Later, it used the collected funds to invest in the two homes.”

He added: “Because the cost of the project kept rising like a roller coaster, with the recommendations of the parish pastoral council and finance council, we sold them.”

Fr. Bao concluded by quoting Proverbs 16:1. “We make our plans but God has the last word.”

Another clergy instrumental in the creation of the new building is Fr. Michael Nguyen, who was Parochial Vicar at St. Cecilia, and is now the Administrator at Santa Clara de Asís.

Fr. Michael continued to be involved in the project, even after being reassigned.

“Not wanting to lose momentum on the building project, it was one of the two responsibilities I continued because I wanted to see it through,” said Fr. Michael. “With the transition of priests at St. Cecilia, I wanted to be the figure of continuity on the project.”

He continued to attend weekly meetings, driving from Yorba Linda to Tustin.

“Although this was added work to my new responsibilities at my new parish, it was a promise I made to the parishioners at St. Cecilia,” said Fr, Michael. “I am delighted that the promise will become a reality in the very near future.”

One of the many ministries at St. Cecilia is the Altar Server Ministry, spearheaded by Jayden Lee, who is looking forward to the building’s conclusion.

“Engrained in our ministry are three core pillars: faith, fun, and fraternity. The new building will help with various ministry activities, whether it be a team meeting, movie night, or seasonal celebrations,” said Lee.

It is the hope that, upon completion of the building in February 2024, Bishop Kevin Vann will bestow his blessing on the project.

“This is an exciting time for our community,” said Fr. Khoi. “It is my hope that the building will help us to grow our ministries. More people will read about us and continue to come to this wonderful community.”