My family and I moved from Dr. Phillips to Avalon Park in 2001. Coming from a fairly established area to East Orlando was a bit of an adjustment, but one we were all prepared to make in order to contribute to our new community.
We recognized the need for a Catholic church to serve Avalon Park and surrounding areas while attending St.’s Peter & Paul in Winter Park. While being a wonderful church, it really was too far to serve our local community. I would often see many of our friends and neighbors there who continually expressed the need for a church nearby. So, I decided to take on this challenge to see what I could do to help.
My first of several communications over many months to the Catholic diocese of Orlando resulted in the dioceses being very helpful and supportive. But, the diocese expressed how “expensive” land was, especially for what a church would need to serve our community. At that point, I had a conversation with the architect and town planner of Avalon, who mentioned that there was land that could become available for a church. He suggested I arrange a meeting with Bishop Wenski and Mr. Beat Kahli, owner of the land, to see if something could be worked out.
Taking his advice, I hurriedly arranged the meeting. Mr. Kahli was very supportive, even deciding to donate seven acres in the South Village of Avalon Park to the Catholic diocese for a church, park and recreation area and multipurpose building to serve the community. Everyone was ecstatic as we now had a goal to work towards! Bishop Wenski decreed that Avalon Park would be a new parish in the diocese and he set about his work to obtain a priest to serve the new parish.
Father David Scotchie, serving at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in St. Cloud, was chosen for the new church. Next we had to find a temporary “home” where the parishioners could meet. Stone Lakes Elementary School had just opened and had the space we needed when all of the surrounding schools available space was taken. Bishop Wenski named the new church St. Maximilian Kolbe after a Polish saint who sacrificed his life to save another man’s in a concentration camp.
Our first Mass was held on Sunday, September 14, 2006 to a very packed house in our new “churchateria” as Fr. David so affectionately calls our church home. Currently we are in the fundraising process with the parishioners and the diocese and are on track to reach our $1,250,000 goal. Phase I is a multipurpose building that will seat 750 people, with meeting rooms, a kitchen, a chapel and a preschool. If all goes well, we should be in our new multipurpose building by the end of 2010. The second phase, which will include a church to seat 1,000 people and a bell tower, will be built as funds allow. We now have more than 1,500 people attending St. Maximilian Kolbe every weekend, meeting at Stonelakes Elementary School.
For more information, please visit us online at www.avaloncatholic.org.
Article by Brenda Kolbrich