Funds for St. Alexander would build new church, offices

by: COURTESY PHOTO - The new St. Alexander parish design is based on a planned unit development, which combines eight parcels into one. Plans to expand St. Alexander parish in Cornelius have moved one step forward.

The Cornelius Planning Commission approved expansion plans for St. Alexander Catholic Church at a meeting Tuesday, March 25, where everyone attending appeared to be in support of the project, according to Dick Reynolds, the city’s community development director.

Now parishioners just have to raise the estimated $4.5 million to complete their plans, which include expanding the church building, offices and facilities.

In a city with the lowest median income in the Portland metro area, though, fundraising has proven difficult. Recent efforts to raise $100,000 on were unsuccessful, with only $2,120 pledged. Another phase will start soon.

Parishioners are currently fundraising for the project and will potentially look to the Archdiocese of Portland for a loan.

The church was built in 1910 and even with an addition from the 1970s, can only host about 250 people. The current building no longer fits the congregation that has grown rapidly in the last few decades, according to Father David Schiferl, the parish’s pastor.

About 1,500 to 2,000 people attend the five to six Masses throughout the weekend at St. Alexander, Schiferl said, and many have to watch a live video feed from separate classrooms because the church is full.

“We need this expansion to be able to serve our congregation better,” said Schiferl, who arrived in Cornelius in 2003 and estimates the parish has grown 30 percent in the last decade.

St. Alexander was once the church designated in the region to provide Hispanic outreach and ministry, Schiferl said, and with the growing Hispanic population in Cornelius in the last few decades, it has seen more parishioners.

“Catholic roots run strong in the Hispanic community,” Schiferl said. Many St. Alexander parishioners are from Mexico and Guatemala.

“People find a place here to socialize, grow in faith and support each other,” Schiferl said. “Every night of the week there is something going on.”

Schiferl estimates the church hosts 250 to 300 baptisms each year and that there are about 400 first- through 12th-grade youth in its youth religious education program. There are also special once-a-month Masses in sign language and for special-needs children.

“With a new campus, we want to provide universal accessibility and an even better ministry,” Schiferl said. “We’re taking one step at a time. We’re excited to be part of the growing city of Cornelius.”

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