Nearly a year since the Parish of St. Benedict in Ahwatukee launched an ambitious fund drive in the hopes of building a new church in time for Christmas of this year, leaders of the building drive have decided that maybe they were a little too ambitious.
The project is continuing to come together under the guidance of the church’s new parochial administrator, Father James Aboyi.
“The building committee continues to work on detailed design and layout, and it hoped to break ground on the new church within the next two years,” said building campaign General Manager Eamonn Ahearne.
The committee also said on its website, “we were able to stand back and work out a more manageable project timeline.”
The church would replace the gymnasium-like building that St. Benedict’s 1,300 families have been using for worship for 13 years — a decade longer than the congregation had planned on using it.
Located next to St. John Bosco Catholic School on S. 48th Street just south of Chandler Boulevard, the new building is needed not just to house a growing congregation’s worship time but because its ministries need more room as well.
But the aggressive timeline that church leaders had unveiled last summer ran into a number of delays — not the least of which was the death of the parish’s beloved pastor, Father Bob Binta.
Aboyi holds a position that is the last step toward becoming a pastor.
“As we moved from top level estimating with the architect to more detailed budgeting with a building contractor and as construction costs continued to rise, we raised our cost estimates,” the committee states on the website.
As a result, it adds, the project leaders “require more time to accumulate funds from the surplus of our weekly collections to add to the capital campaign funds and a mortgage.”
The committee did reach its campaign goal of $3.5 million in pledges and so far has collected half that, which it said “is consistent with the three-year pledge period.”
The total cost of the new church is estimated to be $7.3 million.
To celebrate the first anniversary of the campaign, parishioners earlier this month had a celebration after each mass, with brownies, cupcakes and a special anniversary cake.
Ahearne said the initial timeline for construction was “very aggressive” because leaders were aware that Binta was fighting terminal cancer.
“We really wanted him to see us start the building,” he said.
The construction cost includes furnishings and the architect’s fee and parishioners are relieved that they already own land. The church will be built on the existing campus on 48th Street.
Meanwhile, Aboyi continues to rally his congregation to make good on their building pledges and continue their weekly financial support of the church’s regular operation.
Aboyi joined St. Benedict’s last July after serving as parochial vicar at Holy Cross in Mesa and chaplain of Benedictine University in Mesa.
He is originally from Nigeria in West Africa, where he joined the Via Christi Society as one of its first four members and completed his philosophy and theology seminary studies.
He was ordained a priest for the Via Christi Society in 2004, and was assigned to the Diocese of Tucson for his first priestly ministry.
During his assignment in Tucson, he served as parochial vicar at St. Bartholomew in San Manuel; parish administrator at Infant Jesus of Prague in Kearny; associate pastor at Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Tucson; and pastor of St. Francis of Assisi in Superior.
He is assisted by Father Wilfred Yinah, who was appointed parochial vicar in last fall after serving in that capacity at Resurrection Parish in Tempe.
Though Yinah’s family belonged to the Universal Reformed Christian Church, he converted to Catholicism and was ordained a priest on 2012 in Nigeria before moving to the U.S. in 2017.