By Sean Bowes

The New Tampa/Wesley Chapel area’s only Catholic church wants to transform its campus into something that will make anyone from any background say “wow.”

“I want people to walk onto the campus and just have a unique, spiritual experience,” says Father David DeJulio of St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church on Cross Creek Blvd. “Something like the feeling you get when you walk into the churches in Europe or the older ones here in the States.”

The vision of Fr. DeJulio and the church’s leadership is an entirely new church for the 26-acre campus. Currently, the place of worship the church uses is an undersized Family Life Center that was never intended to be the only sanctuary at the site. Every Saturday and Sunday, more than 1,000 families come to the Family Life Center at St. Mark for services, receptions and religious education classes for kids.

“It’s hard to get a room sometimes,” says DeJulio. “We’ve always envisioned a real spiritual center for New Tampa and we want to build one here. The current building isn’t really a church (in the traditional sense).”

St. Mark’s leadership is looking to use the Family Life Center for local concerts, wedding receptions and to host events for the community. The new plans include a new reconciliation chapel, two quiet rooms that have a view of the altar, an Usher’s Room that would double as a Bride’s Room and an open outside setting that would provde, according to Fr. DeJulio, a “feeling of tranquility.” The current blueprints (see above) include a large, open, landscaped area and a large walking labyrinth that would be located close to the church’s current entrance on Cross Creek Blvd.

“The new plans encompass both traditional and futuristic elements,” says Fr. DeJulio.

To pay for the new structures, the church is trying to raise the $10 million the project is estimated to cost. Fr. DeJulio says construction could begin as soon as the church has at least raised half of that cost, or roughly $5 million. He says that currently, the church has a little more than $3 million in its coffers for the construction.

Fr. DeJulio admits that fund raising is a slow process, but it’s something the church has been working toward since the Family Life Center first opened in 2003. He is confident the church should reach the halfway goal and start building by 2017.

On Sunday, February 19, St. Mark’s will host its annual golf tournament fund raiser at Hunter’s Green Country Club. The tournament will feature longest drive and closest-to-the-pin contests, as well as a “four-person scramble” format golf competition that costs $125 to enter. A chicken and rib dinner also will be served. Sponsorships are available and the church is inviting the entire New Tampa community to come out and join the fun.

“And, you don’t have to be Catholic or a member of the church to come out and play golf or enjoy the tournament,” says Cyndi Letzeisen, St. Mark’s director of development.

St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church is located at 9724 Cross Creek Blvd. For more information about the church or the February 19 golf tournament, call Cyndi Letzeisen at 907-7746.

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