When the Rev. Mike Ingram took over at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church a decade ago, the bishop gave him one directive – build a church.
Not only has Ingram been involved with multiple construction projects, he’s watched as his flock has increased substantially during that time. And he’s concerned with more than just their spiritual well-being.
“Four or 500 years ago, the Catholic church was the epicenter of the community,” said Ingram, an Augusta native.
People went to the church for more than just Mass and confession. The church provided a structure for other parts of their lives. Ingram said his ultimate goal is to have St. Teresa’s offer support to as many areas of a family or individual’s life as needed. The church offers more than 100 different ministries.
The site has changed immensely since Ingram arrived. Once a golf driving range, the Columbia Road location containes a parish life center, where mass was held, and office space. The entrance to the campus had a small building where members of the Knights of Columbus met.
Six years ago, the $9 million sanctuary was built.
“By the grace of God, we only have one payment left,” he said.
Nothing has been decided yet, but Ingram said there will be some type of observance to mark the debt retirement.
There are two additional projects currently underway. Both projects cost about $13 million.
One adds space to the existing educational facility.
With more than 700 children, the church has reached its capacity for classes, he said, making it tougher on families. Ingram said the church has about 6,000 members. A high school student may need to take Christian education classes on Wednesdays while a younger sibling in middle school might have a class scheduled on Sunday night.
The construction will add 20,000 square feet in the educational building. The hope for the new space is that everyone can be at church at the same time, he said.
The educational facility will not only serve as a Sunday school, but in a few years, it will likely be used for a Catholic elementary school, Ingram said.
One of the wish list items among his congregation for years has been a school. The closest Catholic elementary school is St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School on Monte Sano Avenue.
Depending on traffic that drive is at least 20 minutes one way, he said.
In addition to the educational space, another 40,000 square foot building that has yet to be named. In fact, Ingram doesn’t even know what to call it because St. Teresa’s is in the only Catholic church in the Diocese of Savannah to have such a building.
Ingram said it’s a mixed-use facility. It will have a full-sized gymnasium, walking track, locker rooms, a play area for smaller children and space for middle and high school youth ministries.
The weather and the pandemic have led to some delays in the construction, but Ingram envisions they will be completed by the end of the year.