“Excitement is coming little by little,” said Father Pedro Amezcua, C.O.R.C., Pastor of St. James. “The opportunity God’s providence is giving us to build the church anew in Perris, it means that we are to recall that we are the people of God, searching for holiness and walking in Perris spreading the Kingdom of God.
St. James current church, built in 1957, seats about 300 people. The small size, coupled with a growing congregation, necessitates eight weekend Masses at the parish. Large overflow crowds typically gather outside the church on Sunday mornings to listen to the Mass through externally mounted speakers. The need for a bigger church at St. James is not new, the parish began the fundraising drive to buy the land in 1981, purchasing the Dunlap Drive property back in 1996.
Fr. Amezcua says the presence of a large new church will give the parish an opportunity to welcome new members, including those who left because of the small church size, those who have attended non-Catholic churches in the area and newcomers to Perris attracted by new housing developments.
“This perspective tells us that our evangelizing and catechetical programs will expand and that we will need more preparation of all kinds to face and give an answer to that demand,” he says.
At the March 11 groundbreaking ceremony, Father Rafael Partida, Episcopal Vicar for the Riverside Pastoral Region, performed a blessing of the property on behalf of Bishop Gerald Barnes. He remarked that while the effort to build the church building has been long and arduous, the church of St. James; its faith-filled people, has provided the inspiration to move forward.
Priests who ministered in the parish during past decades when the fundraising effort was underway came back to celebrate the groundbreaking, including longtime pastor Monsignor Tom Wallace and Father Richard Humphrys, a retired priest who lives at the parish rectory.
Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley, a longtime parishioner at St. James, spoke at the gathering and presented Fr. Amezcua with a proclamation from the County. The church property is located in an unincorporated area of Riverside County.
The estimated cost to build the new church is $6.9 million. It will be the fifth church to utilize the Diocesan church design template that allows for more cost-effective construction.
The parish continues to fundraise for construction costs. It recently launched a new capital campaign named “1000 Living Stones,” inviting parishioners to become a living stone to build the temple of the Lord by donating $1,000 (faith stone), $1,500 (hope stone), $2,000 (charity stone), or $5,000 (mercy stone). A goal of raising $1 million in the next few months through this campaign has been set.