Our Lady of the Angels unveils $8 million church April 22.
The Rev. Michael Scheip stood in Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church's new worship sanctuary in Lakewood Ranch and smiled.
“It’s going to be a place like an oasis,” said Scheip, who is the church's priest and administrator. “It will be a place for generations to come to worship.”
For the past 18 years, the church has held its services in a multi-purposed building which became progressively cramped as the community grew. On April 22, that all changes.
The new church will open to the public, and that includes the 1,074-seat main worship sanctuary. The old multi-purpose building, which now can concentrate on hosting meetings, seated 565 people for services.
Scheip said Our Lady of the Angels has approximately 2,500 parishioners. A fundraising campaign that began four years ago has raised much of the approximately $8 million needed to build the new facility.
Diocese of Venice Bishop Frank Dewane, who will lead the first service in the new church, said the diocese requires 80% of the funds to be in place before construction can begin on improvements. Construction on the new church began March 20, 2017. A majority of the planning for the church was started by the late Father Dan Smith and a committee of parishioners who worked with the diocese and architects.
One problem slowing construction was the bald eagles' nest on the east side of the property along White Eagle Boulevard.
“Do you see them?" Scheip asked as he pointed to the next. "They come here every year.”
Construction can't take place within 100 feet of the nest at any time and no closer than 330 feet from October through May at breeding time.
Bo Nepip, the construction director for the diocese, said having the eagles nearby didn't turn out to be much of an issue.
“It was challenging in the beginning to work around them,” Nepip said. “We hired monitors just to watch the eagles to make sure they weren’t disturbed.”
Construction went right on time for the new building, which from the air, was built in the shape of a cross.
Besides the building itself, the church enhanced its parking which now includes 41 handicapped spaces. The entire lot has 464 spaces.
While the new church is now finished, Scheip is already thinking about the next project, such as replacing Sacred Heart Hall, a portable on the church's 15.21 acres.
“I’m not ready to tackle that just yet,” Scheip said.
This story has been updated to correct that the new sanctuary has 1,074 seats.