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CHURCH PLANS AMBITIOUS EXPANSION OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP NEEDS ROOM.

Byline: PATRICIA FARRELL AIDEM Staff Writer

NEWHALL -- Worshipers crowded three Masses at a time Christmas Eve at Santa Clarita's oldest Catholic Church -- services were held in the church itself, as well as the parish hall and adjoining conference center.

And standing-room-only was anticipated at Masses today as Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Newhall struggles to accommodate a seven-fold increase in parishioners since it was built in 1961.

``The growth in the parish has been explosive,'' said Alonzo Rosado, a professional fundraiser brought in from Texas to help OLPH with a major expansion plan.

The goal is a staggering $35 million over 20 years for plans that include building a new church -- three times the size of the existing one -- converting the current building into a multipurpose center and eventually expanding the adjoining Catholic school, Rosado said.

Seventy volunteers sit on a committee that has been meeting five years to plan. They hope to begin construction in 2008.

The expansion is to accommodate the more than 7,000 member families from Newhall, southern Valencia, Castaic, Val Verde and Stevenson Ranch. And although the Los Angeles Archdiocese has approved several new parishes in the northern Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, the church faces a critical shortage of priests. A larger church, rather than smaller ones in outlying areas, can help ease the demand for priests, officials with the archdiocese said.

``This is a very busy parish, really dynamic,'' Rosado said. ``There's growth in the area; Sunday Masses are full. There are meetings here every night of the week.''

Rosado's office is the living room of a small 1960s-era house on Arcadia Street, one of five homes the church bought over the years with the goal of razing them to expand.

The office holds huge graphics illustrating the three-tiered expansion and related fundraising drives. So far, $2.5 million has been raised. The donors will remain anonymous until future recognition ceremonies.

Plans have yet to be submitted to the city of Santa Clarita's planning office for review, planning director Paul Brotzman said.

The first phase involves expanding the parking lot and building the new church, which would have access onto both Lyons Avenue and Arcadia Street. The new church would be linked to the existing structure with the two bordering an enclosed courtyard.

Phase 2 is the remodeling of the old church as a parish hall and construction of a pastoral center and meeting rooms. The final step is construction of eight additional classrooms and a gym/auditorium for the school.

This from the roots of a parish that began in 1883 when priests traveled from Los Angeles and later from San Fernando. Local masses first were celebrated in a school building, then in a local woman's home, and later in a hall in Newhall.

The first parish church was built in 1914 nearby on Walnut Street in Newhall. It cost $1,500 to build and sat 100. Twenty years later a church with double that capacity was built on the same site at a cost of $4,500.

The current church opened in 1961 for a parish with 1,050 registered families -- a number that today surpasses 7,000, church officials said.

pat.aidem@dailynews.com

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 24, 2006
Words:538
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