Naples | St. Agnes Parish bills itself as proud to be a stewardship Parish. With more than 70 outreach programs and ministries, the Parish, led by Father Bob Kantor, Pastor, wants everyone to become a steward and share their “time and talent in God’s service.”
“It is important to have an environment that is welcoming,” Father Kantor said. The 70 programs cover several broad categories of prayer, service, catechesis and liturgical, as well as Parish councils and committees and other organizations with Parish affiliation; some are in Spanish and some are in English.
The Parish was founded as a mission church of St. John the Evangelist Parish in 1999, and was erected as a Parish in 2007. Since then, rapid growth has occurred. There are nearly 4,900 registered families and more than 8,000 people come to Mass on a typical weekend during the winter months.
A key to ensuring that so many feel they are part of the larger Parish community is that each program has a go-to person whose phone number is published each week in the bulletin.
“This is vital to having questions answered quickly,” Father Kantor said. “The priests here at St. Agnes have a great number of responsibilities and are not always available. Having a person who we trust to handle things up front makes a big difference in ensuring that everyone feels they belong.”
While not all problems can be solved without the involvement of Father Kantor or the other priests, another key component enabling such a large and dynamic Parish to function so well are the Parish committees and councils which cover key aspects of Parish life.
Committees and councils include arts and liturgical environment, events (English and Spanish), finance, hospitality committee, justice and peace committee, liturgy (English and Spanish), pastoral and stewardship.
Several of these committees have played key roles in some of the recent exciting happenings at St. Agnes Parish. The arts and liturgical environment committee has been working to enhance the Parish property and its buildings with several key projects, including the installation in the past six months of a cross with a corpus in the daily chapel, a cross in the prayer garden, and a Marian window in the Parish hall.
Committee Chair Patti Wisniewski, who is an artist, graphic designer and high school art teacher, said each project involves the hard work of the committee members who bring different perspectives and backgrounds to the table, including artists, designers and others with a background that helps to bring different ideas for projects.
“It is great to be involved in the Parish in a way that fits what I know,” Wisniewski said. “The committee works well together and with Father Bob because we don’t make decisions out of expediency, but based on what is needed, what fits the space and what works for everyone.”
The cross in the daily chapel was a difficult project, Wisniewski said, because there were challenges facing the committee. The biggest challenge was overcoming how the chapel has a window behind the altar and any cross and corpus would have to be clear and bright enough, but also respectful and proper.
What was chosen was a wooden cross with Venetian glass inlay, which allows light to come through. The colors of the inlay match the colors on the exterior glass wall, allowing it to seamlessly blend into its space. That space is directly behind the altar, mounted on brackets in the frame of the implied cross that was part of the original design of the wall. The corpus is lighter in color than most contemporary ones, but that was also necessary to ensure it could be clearly seen.
“It took nearly a year before we came up with what worked,” Wisniewski said. “We looked over designs and even had mock-ups made to see how it would look. The result was wonderful.”
The committee also tackled installing a cross in the prayer garden, something that was appropriate and fit the exterior décor of the chapel and Church. It was decided that the 8-by-4-foot cross would mirror the cross that sits atop the Church, with a golden bronze finish to ensure it can handle any sun damage.
Lastly, was the concept and installation of the Marian stained-glass window in the Parish hall, which presented challenges because the glass needed to be placed in four different large frames. As a west-facing window, the image receives direct sunlight at the end of each day.
“We had a lot of ideas for this and wanted it to have a more contemporary feel to it,” Wisniewski said, adding it needed to work in balance with the more than two dozen Marian portraits that line the walls of the Parish hall.
The image includes a large floating blue M with a field of golden stars that surround a cross with blue, white and red ribbons twisted around it.
While those are some of the aesthetic things taking place at St. Agnes, much more is happening. The stewardship committee, finance council and pastoral council helped to eliminate Parish debt that culminated in a mortgage-burning celebration April 20.
More than 1,000 parishioners gathered to witness the symbolic burning which Father Kantor said was something he has worked for since he took over St. Agnes in 2007.
Many of the liturgical-focused groups have been instrumental in handling the large numbers of people coming to St. Agnes Parish each weekend. They are also responsible for maintaining and growing the seasonal Sunday Mass, which is celebrated at Palmetto Ridge High School on Oil Well Road, some 10 miles northeast of the Parish.
Much of this has come about because the Diocese is aware of the growth in the area. In fact, the Diocese has already selected the site for the building of a new Parish. In the interim period, the Mass is celebrated at Palmetto Ridge High School.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass at the high school during Lent and informed the faithful there about the plans to develop a Mission/Parish on Immokalee Road, east of Collier Boulevard. While no date is set, the Bishop said it is only a matter of a few years before construction could possibly begin.
While only in the planning stages, Father Kantor noted that such a mission would be a watershed moment for St. Agnes Parish, as it will mark the next exciting chapter in the life of the community.
“We really have come a long way since this Parish was founded. It is humbling to even be in the early discussion about such additional growth and expansion.”