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St. Ferdinand, others mirror township growth

| Thursday, June 11, 2009, 12:00 p.m.

The church whose members first met in Hartner's Restaurant once again has growing pains.

One of the region's fastest-growing churches, St. Ferdinand Catholic Church in Cranberry, is launching renovations and additions this summer that are expected to cost $10 million.

The 10,600-member church plans to build office space, areas for religious classes, a social hall and meeting spaces. The parish plans to turn a banquet and reception hall into a gymnasium.

"We do not have enough room in the church for the many activities and classes we have. You have to think in terms of how much we are growing and how much Cranberry is growing," said John Friedrick, director of the church's GIFT -- Growing in Faith Together -- campaign.

The church is one of several in Cranberry that is expanding.

• Nearby Victory Family Church plans to nearly double the 68,000 square feet it already has on 40 acres off Route 19. Over five decades, membership has ballooned to about 8,000 people with population growth and the absorption of part of Cranberry-based St. Ferdinand Parish.

• St. Kilian Parish's membership has experienced a fivefold increase in just the last decade. Two years ago, it embarked on a 10-year, $19 million project for a new home in Cranberry, on 33 acres south of Route 228 and east of Franklin Road.

• Three years ago, North Catholic High School in Troy Hill said it planned to move to southern Butler County at a cost of $25 million to $30 million. Enrollment at the school, which peaked at 1,200 in the early 1960s, is now under 500. By moving to a high-growth area, school officials are hopeful that enrollment will increase.

Among St. Ferdinand's immediate plans are expanded parking lots, new entrance roads, added parking and new water lines.

"The first phase of the project involves a lot of infrastructure, which is important," said architect Ralph Sterzinger, a partner in Ross Schonder Sterzinger and Cupcheck, the Pine firm that designed the church in 1991. "The parking lot is a big problem at some of the Masses. It's not quite like coming out of Heinz Field, but it can get crowded."

The project's second phase will include classrooms, meeting rooms, offices and perhaps the social hall, Sterzinger said.

"There are not enough classrooms, and the church has a pretty extensive Christian education program," he said.

A third phase might include expansion of the worship area, which now seats 1,000 people and, with additions, could hold 1,200. Each week, 17 Masses are said at the church, including four on Sunday.

The timing of the renovations and expansions is not definite, Friedrick said.

Church members have so far pledged $3.9 million and donated $2 million toward the work. But the campaign started last August, weeks before the financial meltdown.

"We are facing the same sort of difficulties that all parishes, all organizations really, are having in this kind of downturn," Friedrick said.

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