BY SUE SIENS
Lebanon’s St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church is expanding upon its historic roots in the community Located in the heart of Lebanon near Cumberland University, St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church has a beautiful and peaceful 6.75 acre campus on S. Tarver Ave. Named in honor of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, a woman of determined spirit and strength, who was the first American citizen canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. In keeping with their Patron Saint’s commitment to service, St. Frances Cabrini is planning a $2.5 million building expansion, in order to meet the growing needs of their congregation, and our community.
The Lebanon church’s first celebration of Mass was held at the home of John J. Martin, Sr. on W. Spring St. nearly 100 years ago, in 1915. From then until 1953, the Mass was celebrated in various locations including the chapel at Cumberland University, the library at Castle Heights Military Academy, and Seagraves Funeral Home. In April, 1953, the present chapel on S. Tarver Ave was dedicated with 26 families as registered members.
Father Michael O’Brien has served as church pastor for 5 ½ years. Prior to entering the priesthood, Father O’Brien served in the U.S. Army 101st Airborne, and ended his military career after being seriously wounded in South Vietnam. After completing his college education, he went on to a successful business career. Then following his call into the priesthood, he served as chaplain at St. Thomas Hospital and assistant pastor at the Cathedral of the Incarnation. Father Michael noted that, “We recognized our church congregation needed room to grow. And plan to break ground on the new facilities as soon as all funds are raised. It will be built debt-free. We are hopeful with support from our church and community to begin early next year.” He noted that approximately $150,000 is still needed to complete their fund-raising goal.
Today the church serves approximately 480 families, and 1,200 individuals. The current worship space seats about 210 people. The new worship space will seat 450 people. There will also be an enclosed Narthex where members can gather to fellowship before or after services, a covered portico, a large cry room, a larger choir space, and a state of the art sound system.
The expansion is approximately 11,000 sq. ft. The present worship space will be renovated into a large recreation and multi-purpose area for the church families to use, and for community needs.
For many years, the church parish discussed the need to grow the worship space. The current effort to build the new facility began in April, 2013 when a building committee was formed, and began to develop the plan. One of the building committee members, Teresa Wigginton, remarked that “We have attended here for 17 years. It is a very friendly congregation, with a family oriented atmosphere and wonderful children’s ministry. We are very much a church family.”
Jenny Bennett, also a member of the building committee, said, “We are very excited about the new building. Our family loves attending here. It is wonderful for children.
” St. Frances Cabrini has Mass services four times on the weekends, one on Saturday, two on Sunday morning, and a Spanish Mass to serve the Hispanic community on Sunday afternoon. It is a very active church community, including 21 organizations and many volunteer efforts.