New Parish Center opens at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Niles

After almost five years of planning and construction, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Niles opened its spacious new family center featuring a stainless steel kitchen on June 16.

About 250 people attended the Mass that celebrated the dedication and open house at the 12,500 square-foot building, and about the same number attended the party, which featured cookies made by members of the parish.

Mass at Mt. Carmel in Niles. Photo by Karen S. Kastner.

The theme of the Father’s Day Mass was “growth and unity,” taking into consideration both the new center, which seats approximately 250 adults at round tables and about 415 if just chairs are used, and the parish’s merger with St. Stephen of Hungary Church.

Bishop David Bonnar, who recognized in his homily fathers both living and deceased, commented that “The Kingdom of God is pregnant with growth.” He went on to say, “We must grow in God’s love with trust and patience,” pointing out that the two parishes “will soon become one.”

He said, “We have so much to learn from one another and with one another.”

The bishop concluded, “Lord, it’s good to give thanks to you—you are the source of our growth.”

Mount Carmel pastor Father Steven Agostino pointed out in an interview that he has served Mount Carmel less than a year, crediting those who came before him, including former pastor Monsignor John Zuraw and Zuraw’s predecessor Monsignor John-Michael Lavelle.

Permanent Deacon Michael Hanshaw, who was widely credited with having brought the project to fruition, said that in addition to the Covid-19 pandemic, the parish did not have a pastor for about a year during the planning stage. “But everyone in the parish came together and made the dream come true,” Hanshaw said, adding, “It brings a tear to your eye.” He also credited a “very good committee” with much of the work.

“It’s been a challenge,” said Father Agostino. “We are relieved and excited. It’s going to serve our community well,” especially new parishioners from St. Stephen are welcomed into the fold.

Father Agostino said the finance council of the two parishes are now blending their finances “into one checkbook.”

Dennis Biviano, public relations and media specialist for the diocese and a fifth-generation member of Mount Carmel, commented that it was “wonderful” to see the result of such “blood, sweat and tears.”  He also observed, “In this day and age, you don’t see this sort of thing happening.”

Previously, the parish had used the Marian Hall in the basement of the church, but the new kitchen is several times larger.

And there are no steps to go up and down, remarked Anna Marie Beagle, Geri Borgen and Susan Pappada, who are officers of the Blessed Mother Society of the church. The organization raised $125,000 over several years toward the family center project. Said Borgen, “We are so fortunate to have very good volunteers—very good workers—who are not afraid to give their time, talent and money.”

The facility also came with a new pizza press, said Barbara Frank, who was the first woman usher at Mount Carmel where she was baptized. As a member of the group of festival workers, she said the new press will make the process much less work-intensive.

Handing out programs at the front door of the new center, Frank said she hadn’t been certain that the event would have a good turnout, considering it was Father’s Day and a time when a lot of graduations and vacations would take place, but that she was pleasantly surprised. The 250 or so participants included those who had attended Mass on Saturday but had returned, she said.

Anthony Ciminero, a parish council member, and his wife, Karen, a catechism teacher for first- and second-graders, visited the new facility on opening day. Calling the center “beautiful,” Ciminero said, “I’m excited for it to be done. I’m looking forward to holding many events here—it’s something for the community.” His wife said enthusiastically, “It’s very nice. I can’t wait to teach here!”

Mount Carmel Parish will hold its annual festival July 18 through 21, with its usual offerings of chicken parmesan, meatball parmesan, pizza, calzones, cheese puffs, twists and snow cones.

For more information, visit the website.

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Picture of Karen S. Kastner

Karen S. Kastner

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