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St. John Paul II Roman Catholic Mission setting a busy pace on Browns Bridge
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Saint John Paul II Roman Catholic Mission is building new spaces at its church including a soccer field. - photo by Austin Steele

A new, 20-acre home for a Catholic mission on Browns Bridge Road reflects Gainesville’s booming population growth from Middle and South America.

The St. John Paul II Roman Catholic Mission at 2410 Smith Road, just off of Browns Bridge Road near its intersection with McEver Road, held its first Mass at its new space in September after more than two years of work finding and building out a home for what leaders and members hope will eventually become Gainesville’s newest Catholic parish.

The mission was created in 2015 but has been in the works since 2008 as Gainesville’s Latino population has continued to boom. It was established as a pastoral center in 2010 and elevated to mission status five years later.

Even now, families continue to add to the ranks of the mission, according to the Rev. William Canales, the administrator of the mission who leads it with the Rev. Hernan Quevedo. Canales said in an interview at the new facility on Tuesday that the mission’s membership has swelled to more than 1,500 families — almost all of them Latino.

And its new home will accommodate that growth. The mission has finished construction on just the first phase of the project — a large building that includes room for offices, a sprawling sanctuary with room for more than 1,000 worshippers, and a small chapel.

“People are happy,” Canales said of the mission.

The second phase of the project begins next year and includes construction of soccer fields and other recreational space, and the third phase includes the true, permanent sanctuary for what is likely — but not yet certain — to become Gainesville’s newest parish.

When the new sanctuary is concluded in 2021, the current (brand new) sanctuary will be converted into community space. The entire project is expected to cost more than $6 million.

Gainesville’s mission is also the first in Georgia to offer an English mass; most missions have catered to non-English speaking populations, Canales said.

“We welcome everyone,” he said, noting that English services are meant to accommodate not just the entire community but the second generation of Latino immigrants, who tend to speak more English than their parents.

And even though the new space has only hosted regular Mass beginning in September, it already has a busy schedule: Mass is held every day except Tuesday, and there are four services on Sunday.

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