Flags of multiple nations, from the United States to Mexico and Honduras to Brazil, were waved in celebration as the Diocese of Nashville and the Sagrado Corazón Church community celebrated the groundbreaking of Unity Hall in a special ceremony, Sunday, April 16, outside the Catholic Pastoral Center.
“Although it’s a little cloudy today, it is a beautiful day for Sagrado Corazón and the Diocese of Nashville,” said Brian L. Cooper, Chancellor and chief operating officer for the diocese. “This is a day that has been dreamed about for many years, and I’m so proud and humbled to be here with all of you and our distinguished guests and all of us as a community.”
The new indoor/outdoor space, measured at around 20,000 square feet, will feature large glass retractable walls, seating for more than 1,000 people, an indoor prep kitchen, cooking areas, courtyards, picnic areas, and more. Centric Architecture designed the building and Choate Construction is the contractor on the project. Completion of the building and its opening is anticipated for spring 2024.
“Once completed, Unity Hall will become the single largest indoor/outdoor space in the entire diocese,” Cooper said.
The space will primarily serve the Sagrado Corazón community with its various activities and events.
“The Sagrado Corazón community is the heart of a vibrant Hispanic ministry in our diocese, and your church is a wonderful example to the Catholics of our diocese of how people working and praying together can make great things happen,” Cooper said. “When I leave my work at night from this very building, I get to see all the families heading into church into Sagrado Corazón, and it truly warms my heart when I see such smiling, happy, and reverent faces.
“This is a significant and much deserved investment in the Sagrado Corazón community,” he added.
Originally pegged as Sagrado Hall, Bishop J. Mark Spalding announced the official name during the Chrism Mass Tuesday, April 4.
“We have a oneness in Christ,” Bishop Spalding said. “Blessed by God’s grace and abundance, as our testament for solidarity and love for each other, the name of our new hall will be Unity Hall or, in Spanish, Salón de la Unidad.”
“The name for this hall was chosen with great care,” Cooper said, during the groundbreaking. “Unity or unidad is important to Bishop Spalding, and it is his wish for us to worship together, support one another, and work hard, hand in hand, to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
“As it emerges, Unity Hall will become a symbol of oneness, not only for Sagrado Corazón but for the whole Nashville Catholic community,” he said. “As an event center and ministry home, Unity Hall will help Sagrado Corazón to continue to grow and bring even more people into an engaged relationship with our Lord and each other.”
“In closing, I’d just like to say, Estamos unidos por nuestro amor a Jesucristo,” he concluded. “We are united by our love for Jesus Christ.”
During the groundbreaking, the crowd was also addressed by Father David Ramirez, pastor of Sagrado Corazón, and Anabell Trevino, assistant director of Sagrado Corazón.
“You guys already know that I’m a man of few words, but I want to thank God before anything else because without Him, we are nothing,” Father Ramirez began. “I had prayed to God continually that he would bless us with a place where we can commune together, and I think he heard our prayers. This is a facility that has been brought to us and destined to us by God. It is a facility that has been given to us and well deserved because we work very hard together.”
Father Ramirez also thanked Bishop Spalding for his support.
“He has been a great help to us and a great blessing,” Father Ramirez said. “Since the day he started, the first thing he did was he came up to me and said, ‘How can I be in service to you?’ And I told him, ‘We just need your support,’ and we have been blessed to receive it.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to keep supporting us as he has so far, and we are very blessed to have him.”
Then, addressing Cooper and MaLinda Oden, director of facilities and technology for the Catholic Pastoral Center, he said, “Thank you so much. We can always count on you to be great friends.”
Finally, Father Ramirez turned to the Sagrado Corazón community.
“Every time we reach out, every time we need your support, you guys are always there, you guys never say no, and for that, we are very blessed,” he said. “This project is just starting, and I know that I can count on every single one of you, and I want to thank every single one of you for that, for all the support, because I know when I ask for your help you guys will say ‘Yes’ every single time.”
Trevino added to that sentiment.
“It has been more than 35 years that people started dreaming about a home where they can pray and meet and feel at home. Many people collaborated to be here in this moment of history where we can move forward with a new project,” Trevino said. “Many people are no longer with us because they are in heaven or are in other parts of this world, but they’re here in spirit.
“We need the support of the whole community to keep growing, and the hall is going to be an instrument to create one church where we can break the barriers of language culture,” she added, “and become one church to preach faith, love, and hope.”
To end, Bishop Spalding led the community in a prayer.
“Almighty God, Father of mercy, who created all things by your Son, and established Him as the solid foundation of your kingdom,” the bishop prayed, “attend to our request and make this work that we begin for the glory of your name and for our benefit, with the help of your wisdom, grow from day to day until its happy culmination. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
The ceremonial groundbreaking was led by Deacon Anelmo Ambriz, director of religious education of Sagrado Corazón; Trevino; Father Ramirez; Bishop Spalding; Cooper; Metro Nashville Councilman Jeffrey Syracuse; and Father Alejandro Godinez, associate pastor of Sagrado Corazón.
Members of the Sagrado Corazón community were ecstatic at this next step toward the new hall.
“We’re very excited because we stay so active, especially with the youth,” said José Arias, one of the youth coordinators of Sagrado Corazón. “In our opinion, the best way to keep the youth at church is to give them a lot of activities and give them variety. Variety is important to us because everyone has different interests, so it gives the youth a special place to call home.
“We’re always trying to do things like sports events, fundraisers, retreats, and more, so having this hall is really going to enable us to give more options to our youth and keep attracting more and more youth to our Lord,” he said. “We’ve been abundantly blessed to have more and more youth come to us and have an opportunity to have a place here to have retreats, where we can serve them and introduce them to the love and mercy of Our Lord.”