FOND DU LAC — Holy Family Parish didn’t have a comfortable space for high school youth – until now. The Victory Center, a youth center three years in the making, is open tohigh school students in the former convent at the parish’s Sacred Heart site, 321 Evans Drive.
Passionate parishioners saw a need for youth ministry and made it happen, according to Fr. Ryan Pruess, newest member of the in solidum team at Holy Family. The renovations to the former convent of the Congregation of St. Agnes, where religious education and Christian formation classes are held, were showcased in a grand opening on Sunday, Sept. 9.
New hardwood flooring, tables, leather furniture, rugs and freshly painted walls render the three rooms in the lower level of the building unrecognizable, Fr. Pruess said, giving them a “coffee house look.”
“We wanted to give (youth) a space where they could just relax, just come hang out, work on homework, visit, whatever they want to do just having that space where they’re comfortable to be at if they just need to get away from school or get away from home for a little bit. …,” Fr. Pruess told your Catholic Herald in a phone interview last week. “It’s a place for them to be themselves.”
And a place that many volunteers,including young adults and youth, helped create from painting walls to constructing furniture.
The Victory Center’s hours
Tuesdays: 3:30 to 8 p.m.
For more information or to sponsor the center:
“The young adults really came together and offered a lot of service to painting and helping where they could, just getting the place cleaned up and ready for our grand opening,” Fr. Pruess said, explaining that the youth were more involved in naming the center.
Trisha Flasch, Holy Family Parish’s youth and young adult minister since August, said parishioners found the name of the center that students chose ironic.
“(Students) did not elaborate (on why they chose that name), although, many people have commented that with Fr. Vic (Victor Capriolo) passing away, The Victory Center is kind of an ironic name, since ‘Vic’ is right there.”
Holy Family parishioner Sheila Skiff and her family, relatively new to the Fond du Lac area, donated a puzzle of Pope John Paul II, along with time, energy and enthusiasm because the center is a way to let the youth know they are important to the parish.
“It’s just a nice place for them to know that the parish cares about them, they’re providing this atmosphere for them and it’s a Christian environment, so in a way that’s different than anywhere else they can go….” said Skiff, noting that the olive green doors were refinished, window coverings replaced and the walls were painted a neutral color so that artwork, created and donated by the students, can be featured on the walls.
One parishioner donated handmade picnic tables that he painted bright red and yellow.
The center boasts a multimedia room complete with surround sound speakers and a big screen TV, a full-size kitchen with a dining room table, a room with a sitting area and tables where students can work, books, Christian music, games, movies, a coffee maker, even a popcorn machine.
“It’s open to any high school student, so parishioner or not, Christian or not, anybody is welcome there,” Fr. Pruess said, noting that significant donations helped to fund the project, along with money that was put into the building’s maintenance fund years ago.
The parish already covers the cost of the building’s utilities, but Fr. Pruess said parishioners and anybody interested are invited to sponsor the center for a month by making a one-time $100 donation helping to offset the cost of formation materials and books, soda, water, coffee, hot chocolate, snacks and other things provided free for the students.
The center is open from 3:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, 5 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays and 6 to 11 p.m. on Saturdays. Fr. Pruess said the parish is turning to Marian University for young adult volunteers to help Flasch staff the center.
Flasch said the center will offer Bible studies and different sessions by SPIRITUS, along with themed nights, movie and game nights, ice cream socials.
“We have the ability to have a little bonfire, so there could be marshmallows and s’mores,” she said, noting the center still welcomes sponsors and donations of books, movies, games and outdoor sports equipment. “So, really, we’re open to any ideas that we can come up with or any ideas that we hear the students would like to see or like to have in that space.”
Flasch said she hopes the center will eventually have a full volunteer staff and a large number of students who learn and grow in their faith in the center’s safe environment.
Signs and new lighting outside the center will soon display its name. “We’d like to put in a stage down the road and have a place where we could actually have some live music performed…,” Fr. Pruess said. “So, yeah, it’s a very cool place.”