A reminder that there are places in the country where the faith is booming:
Gilbert is growing, and so is St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church.
The town’s second-largest Catholic church recently completed a 7,000-square-foot building with a 90-seat adoration chapel and a permanent office at a cost of $1.5 million.
Father Will Schmid said that the office and the chapel were necessary to make more room and provide more facilities to the community. During his tenure, which began in 2012, the church has increased registered families from 2,600 to 4,000.
“A lot of people are coming here because they are moving to Arizona and to Gilbert,” said Schmid, who was born and raised in Arizona and used to run a chapel within Seton Catholic Preparatory High School in Chandler.
About 300 to 500 people move to Gilbert each month, according to the town. The last census found that Gilbert added about 8,000 people from 2012 to 2013.
The influx means the Catholic church’s Masses are well attended.
The four Masses, with the exception of the early Sunday morning Mass, are filled to capacity almost every week, Schmid said. Recently, the church hall was re-configured to seat 980 people, up from 850.
Previously, the 15-member church staff shared rooms and now, almost every staff member has his or her own office.
In addition, the 850 students from prekindergarten to 12th grade have classrooms for their religion education classes. In the previous setup, four dividers were placed at the back of the church for the classes. “It was so loud and it’s hard to focus where you have four classes going on at the same time,” Schmid said.
St. Mary Magdalene is one of two Catholic churches in Gilbert. The other, Saint Anne’s, has 5,000 registered families. They both belong to the 93-parish Phoenix Diocese, which serves about 800,000 Catholics.
St. Mary Magdalene was founded in 2002 when excessive growth necessitated a second church in Gilbert. After a humble beginning meeting in various schools, a $5 million, 20,000-square-foot building was constructed on 19 acres at 2654 E. Williams Field Road, four years ago.
“This is a middle- to upper-middle class community, so we didn’t have financial struggles,” then Pastor Gregory Menegay told The Republic at the time.