First Mass celebrated in Our Lady of Guadalupe Church

By Lou Baldwin
Special to the CS&T

When, on June 5, Msgr. Joseph P. Gentili announced to his congregation at Central Bucks East Hish School that their next Sunday Mass would be in their very own church he was met with thunderous applause. Eleven years is a long wait, but good things are worth waiting for.

When Cardinal Justin Rigali celebrated Mass and dedicated Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, at Cold Spring Creamery Road and Route 413 in Buckingham Township on June 11, the congregants got their first good look at their new 1,200-seat church.

Built on an approximately 30-acre campus, the new construction includes the church, built in a neo-gothic style, with stone and brick facing and tile roof reminiscent of historic mission-style buildings in the region, with a 100-seat chapel dedicated to St. Juan Diego connected by a baptistery to the main church and a bell tower. {{more}}

It also includes a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, other shrines, a large ambo, a choir loft fully accessible to the handicapped, confessionals and ample restroom facilities.

The parish itself, which now has 1,850 families and growing, was founded in May 2000 on territory taken from Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Doylestown. The name, in which the parishioners had input, was probably chosen because the previous year Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in America,” referred to Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness of all America, according to parish historian Lisa Roche.

Construction of the church was delayed because two original locations that were chosen proved to be impractical. Groundbreaking was done under the founding pastor, Father Joseph J. Quindlen, in 2009 while actual construction of the church began in July of that year, shortly after Msgr. Gentili’s arrival.

“We looked forward with great joy to the dedication,” Msgr. Gentili said. “It’s a great gift to be assigned to such a wonderful parish.”

The church was designed by KCBA Architects of Hatfield; the general contractor was Adams Bickel Associates of Collegeville; stained glass by Scintilla; sculptures by George Nista in Philadelphia; Carlin Studios of Kennett Square executed devotional religious paintings and murals, and noted Philadelphia artist Anthony Visco was liturgical consultant and designer.

Total cost of the church was $14.5 million, and construction of an adjacent ministry center with offices and a small social hall in the near future will bring the total cost to $18.5 million, according to Msgr. Gentili. Also in the planning stages for future construction is a religious education center to support PREP and CYO programs.

The center is expected to have a number of classrooms and a gymnasium, social hall and auditorium. Eventually the parish hopes also to build a rectory on the property.

No one is more pleased than the people who worshipped at the high school all those years.

“We haven’t had a traditional home, but we knew it would happen and we stuck together,” Roche said. “My youngest son was baptized in the school auditorium under a ballroom globe. We are overjoyed to sit in actual pews with kneelers. The church is beautiful, and it is homey and welcoming.”

Every step of the construction and interior work has been filmed for posterity by Chet Heinz, whose profession was in the photographic field.

“I’ve been photographing it once a week. It is really spectacular,” he said. Heinz remembers over the years some people tired of the school and drifted away to other parishes, but now that the church is a reality, they are coming back.

Even before the dedication different groups had a walk-through. He was with a group of about 25, and they were unanimous in their approval. “It was all ‘oohs and aahs’ and ‘oh my gosh,'” he said. “It is the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.