St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Bakersfield’s newest Roman Catholic parish and the first centered in the city’s northwest, will begin construction of its first-phase worship center and parish facilities beginning with a groundbreaking ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday.
For those parishioners who have spent years working and praying for this moment, the event at the northwest corner of Old Farm and Reina roads – the site of the planned 720-seat worship center – symbolizes a new beginning, an opportunity to “get in on the ground floor” of a new Catholic parish.
At an estimated cost of $6.2 million, the facility will also include classrooms, meeting and office space, a children’s center and a kitchen. An even larger worship center is planned in the not-too-distant future as projected growth demands.
The first-phase project was designed by Robert Habiger of Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, with revisions by Mark Russell, Radian Design Group. Construction is managed by S. C. Anderson.
“It’s a real honor to be asked to do this,” said Monsignor Perry Kavookjian, pastor of St. Elizabeth’s since its formation in April 2008.
“You don’t do this on your own,” he said. “It’s through the cooperation of people, their goodness and generosity, that something like this can happen.”
Bishop Armando X. Ochoa, head of the Diocese of Fresno, will preside over Saturday’s ceremony, ushering in a new era for the parish’s nearly 1,000 families, who have been meeting for worship each Sunday in an auditorium at Frontier High School.
“The tough part is over,” said Mark Teissere, who along with his wife, Tina, has been involved with the growing parish from the beginning.
After living in Houston for several years, the couple returned to Bakersfield in the mid-1990s. Tina had converted to catholicism from her Baptist background, and brought a bit of the Protestant denomination’s enthusiasm with her.
“We wanted to take what we had in Houston and bring it back to Bakersfield,” she said.
That included an unmistakably welcoming environment, a strong outreach program, a women’s ministry at least as vibrant as the men’s, Bible study and youth activities and education to help secure the parish’s future.
“When we heard they were planning on building a church in the northwest – that was an easy decision for us to get in on the ground floor and help build a new church,” Mark said.
For many Catholics in Bakersfield, getting to Mass 20 minutes early on any given Sunday is a must if they want to find a seat. A new church coming to Bakersfield may be one answer.
“The interest is there,” Kavookjian said. “Not only are we gaining people from other parishes, we are also bringing in people who were not attending Mass anymore, some after a lot of years of being away from the church.”