For its Pastor. Father Burke, it's a dream come true. How it all came about he will take no credit. He will simply say "God did all the work!". The new church, which was dedicated on October 13th, is great achievement and the beautiful structure now embraces the skies of Forest City.
There is a prayer from St. Francis of Assisi which begins: "Lord, make me and instrument..." This seems very appropriate because if "God did all the work to make it happen" then He choose Father Herbert T. Burke to be the instrument! This is the story of the new church which has been built and is a tribute to all believers, whichever faith you embrace.
Incidentally, St. Francis of Assisi is credited with the establishment of the first manger scene in 1223 A.D.
Ironically, the church shares its dedication date with another famous achievement. October 13th is the 286th day of the year (287th in leap year) - 79 days remaining until the end of the year. In the year 2010 it was on a Wednesday. It was the day that the new church was dedicated by Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis, JCD, Bishop of Charlotte. It is the same date, October 13th, but in the year, 1792 that George Washington laid the cornerstone for the executive mansion - known today as the The White House.
I saved this story for the last edition of the year 2010 because it personifies a congregation's focus, determination and achievement. This little church began as a mission church of St. Mary's in Shelby. The 100 seat church which served it's members for 60 years is now replaced by a beautiful gothic design structure that can seat 650! If needed, it also can be expanded to seat 1200.
It was on June 6, 1992 that a man, Herbert T. Burke was ordained at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington, D. C. He is the youngest of three children. He had enlisted in the U. S. Air Force in 1986. He entered the seminary in 1988 and transferred from enlisted to chaplain school. Prior to this he was a truck driver and armed guard. He is a qualified sharpshooter and pistol expert. He is certified as an armed car expert sharpshooter. He is also an expert with the M-16 rifle. When he transferred to Charlotte, he became an associate pastor of St. Leo's in Winston-Salem. In 2001 he became Pastor of Immaculate Conception. The membership of the church kept growing and the little 100 seat church was overflowing. Sunday services overflowed to the church hall where members watched the services on television. The time had come to built a new church.
As we all have heard, church is not structure, it is people. The people of Immaculate Conception responded to build a new church to house them. The new church capital campaign began in 2007. The ground breaking took place in October 2009. It took a year to build. The completion of this structure is big news for the community. It is 11,120 square feet. The building is based on the classic, gothic cruciform cathedral. Outside the front of the church is adorned with a 65 foot high bell tower clad in stone and topped with a metal spire. The bell tower has 12 spire windows housing the three cast bronze bells made in the Netherlands. There are three bells - 1,000 pounds, 650 pounds, and 350 pounds which are electronically rung by internal strikers. The bells ring out on the hour from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. At noon and 6 p.m. the bells play the "Angelus" which is followed by the "Peal". The bells can also ring out a joyful peal and funeral toll.
There is more work to be done within the church structure. The beautiful stained glass windows are not yet in place. Father Burke and his parishioners are committed to continuing this complex which will include a new two story parish hall, a full size basketball court, kitchen and a promenade from which one can enjoy the mountains. Eventually, a school will emerge on the grounds. Also, because of the tremendous parish loving of the rosary, it shall also be included in a special place.
As Pastor, Father Burke purchased an adjacent 7.18 acres in 2003 with the intention of building a new church there. In 2007 an additional contiguous parcel of 14.44 acres to the north of the new church was purchased. The plans within Immaculate Conception Church is an ongoing challenge - an ongoing achievement.
Father Burke is assisted in his duties by Deacon Andrew "Andy" Cilone. For service times, please call 828-245-4017.
I hope this story provides you with a positive and motivated outlook. As we are prepared to begin 2011, all of us in Rutherford County can take inspiration from this magnificent achievement. Each of us need to become believers that together, we can accomplish just about anything! Simply said - to believe, we can achieve. That is what we need to do and can do in 2011! That is what we all need to infuse in our lives. Happy, blessed New Year to each of you. May 2011 become your best year yet!