St. Bede seeks $11.5M to demolish, rebuild parish hall, but some are wary

St. Bede the Venerable Roman Catholic Church recently unveiled a capital campaign that seeks to raise $11.5 million for a new parish hall and annex building. But some parishioners question the necessity of demolishing the current structures.
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For nearly 70 years, the building that serves as the parish hall at St. Bede the Venerable Roman Catholic Church has been a beating heart on the La Cañada campus — first as a sanctuary and now a place where parishioners celebrate, learn and serve humanity.

As beloved and well-used as it has been, however, church leaders say it’s time to look ahead to the next 70 years.

The church recently unveiled a capital campaign, called “Anew,” which seeks to raise $11.5 million for the construction of a new parish hall and a multipurpose annex building at 215 Foothill Blvd.

In a pastor’s message to church members posted on the church’s website, Msgr. Antonio Cacciapuoti acknowledged the current buildings as a gift provided by St. Bede’s founding families but said the time had come for them to be replaced.

“Unfortunately, the original buildings are no longer viable as instruments of faith or community or service. However, we have the opportunity to do for the future what those families did for previous generations and for us,” he wrote. “I ask you to pray for our project, and I invite you to consider how you can best support it.”

So far, more than $6.9 million, or about 60% of the funding goal, has been pledged and nearly $1.5 million of that collected. But some in the church are questioning whether demolishing the current structures and funding new construction is necessary.

The classic mission-style structure with a tile roof and bell tower was constructed in 1952 and first opened its doors to parishioners on Christmas Day of that year. Just weeks later, in early January 1953, the two-story St. Bede School opened as well. The new church served 73 area families at a time when La Cañada’s population was experiencing a post-World War II boom.

By the mid-’60s, the original church was bursting at the seams during masses, so a new structure — modern in style and boasting seats for 900 worshipers — was constructed next door to the first building. When the new building opened in 1968, the original church became known as the parish hall.

Tom Johnston, 72, grew up in La Cañada and began attending St. Bede School shortly after it opened. Following in the footsteps of his father, he is an usher who attends mass every Sunday and says his family has a close association with the church and parish hall.

Johnston said he first heard about the “Anew” campaign a few months ago, although plans already seemed well advanced by then. In a recent meeting, he was asked to visit parishioners to try and solicit their support.

He believes a renovation of the current facilities would be a more practical option.

“It could be done for a lot less, and you could save the building,” Johnston said of the parish hall. “There’s no sense in tearing it down. It’s such a waste.”

Jerri Nicol, a special projects communications coordinator for the church, confirmed Tuesday a new capital campaign was in the works but said it was still too soon for church leaders to comment, as plans have not been finalized or submitted to La Cañada’s planning department.

“We’re very aware people are always concerned about it when we’re taking down one building and putting a new one up,” Nicol said. “It’s something we will want to share — we’re just not ready yet.”

Two informational meetings are scheduled at the parish hall, including one for St. Bede School parents on Nov. 3 after the 9 a.m. mass and a reception for all parishioners on Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m. To RSVP, call (818) 949-4300 or email