By SUSAN GOULDING     12/15/2022

It took more than two decades of determination, patience and faith. But finally, the new Pastoral Center at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Dana Point officially debuted.

The two-day celebration, Nov. 19-20, included a blessing of the building by the Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, Bishop of the Diocese of Orange.

Over the weekend, more than 2,000 community members visited the seaside campus – attending Masses and touring the spacious Pastoral Center.

“We ran out of doughnuts,” parish administrator Fr. Philip Smith said with a laugh.

Breaking ground just 19 months ago, in summer of 2021, the renovation expanded the size of the building it replaces from 15,000 to 25,000 square feet.

The space incorporates Knight Hall – previously, a stand-alone structure. The multipurpose hall honors Father Louis Knight, who became the first pastor of St. Edward in 1969.

Additionally, the church’s narthex underwent a remodel that widens the foyer by 1,400 square feet. That project was completed a year ago, in time for Christmas.

The Pastoral Center’s backstory starts in 1999, when the church purchased 2.5 acres of adjacent land – intending to build a school and a larger parish center. The school was completed in 2001, but funds ran out before the next stage.

In 2007, church leaders and members again made plans for a Pastoral Center. But just as fundraising efforts kicked off, the economy crashed.

Despite those setbacks, the dream of a modern Pastoral Center lived on. Another fundraising drive began in 2017.

A year later, Smith joined St. Edward and led the completion of the Pastoral Center.

“This isn’t something that I accomplished but that the entire parish accomplished,” Fr. Smith said. “I’m just very happy to be a part of it.”

Another bump in the road: COVID would delay construction for a year.

“We’ve had several false starts,” Fr. Smith noted.

The contemporary work of architecture combines aesthetics with functionality. A lobby seamlessly connects parish and business offices. Large areas of the Pastoral Center can be easily partitioned into smaller ones.

Now, the building can house 15 rooms at any given time, compared to the four stationary rooms in the former Knight Hall. It can accommodate 800 people, 200 more than before.

“The new Knight Hall area is almost twice the size of the former Knight Hall,” Fr. Smith said. “It can be divided into seven smaller rooms.”

Knight Hall also boasts a stage that already has been broken in by children’s performances.

The building, wired for future installation of solar power, was designed with energy efficiency in mind. LED lighting is used throughout; thermostats allow for room-by-room temperature control; innovative landscaping captures rainwater.

Outside, the courtyard and terrace offer a sweeping view of Dana Point Harbor.

“We are well known for the fact that worshippers can see the ocean from the inside of our church through a glass wall,” Fr. Smith said.

In the nearby church, the reimagined narthex is even more striking. The entryway features 22 panels of colorful stained glass that have an interesting history all their own.

Five of the panels have graced the narthex since 1992, when today’s church replaced the original one built 25 years prior. Those panes were designed by glass artist Jos Maes, who died in 2008.

Luckily, Maes passed his talent to his son, Dirk Maes of Laguna Beach. The younger Maes created 17 more panes in the style of his father’s.

“We are very grateful for the continuity,” Fr. Smith said.

It was just one of many ways that, at long last, the vision of a Pastoral Center came into focus.

Fr. Smith gave credit to St. Edward parishioners, pastors and donors throughout the years.

“I am aware that, before I was lucky enough to come along, others did the hardest work,” Fr. Smith said. “I’m simply continuing what was started by so many people before me.”