HISTORY OF ST. MARY MAGDALENE PARISH
In 1997, Bishop Joseph Gossman, responding to requests from many parents in Southwest Wake County for Catholic Schools, appointed Father Donald Staib to begin a new parish in Apex. The Bishop indicated the first task for Father Staib was to work with Father William Schmidt, and then later Father David Fitzgerald, pastors of St. Andrew in Apex, and Father John Wall, pastor of St. Michael in Cary, to build new Catholic elementary schools.
In 1997, the priests and committees of lay people began to work with architects to design the buildings, establish curriculum and guidelines for the schools, form a search committee for two principals, and make a study to determine the potential number of children who might attend the schools. The next task was to raise funds for the constructions; the campaign was called Campaign 2000. Ground was broken for two new schools on June 6, 1999. One school was built on the campus of St. Michael, and the second school became the beginning building for St. Mary Magdalene Parish and School.
When it came time for groundbreaking, a name was needed for the new parish. Father Staib had asked various individuals and groups in the Catholic community for suggestions; there were no strong contenders proposed. The pastor himself strongly favored names from the Bible and suggested Mary Magdalene to the Bishop. There are no other Catholic churches in North Carolina with this name.
In the New Testament, Mary Magdalene is mentioned four times; she was healed by Jesus of an affliction, she and other women supported Jesus and the Apostles in their ministry, she stood with Jesus' mother at the cross, and she was the first witness to Jesus' Resurrection. Because she took the news of the Resurrection to the Apostles, she is often called ‘Apostle to the Apostles.’
All other information about Mary is legend; an excellent book about Mary Magdalene (which includes information on how the legends grew over the past 2000 years) is Susan Haskins' Mary Magdalene: Myth and Metaphor. It was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1993.
In keeping with this background, the street address for the parish is Magdala Place; Magdala is the town in the Holy Land on the Sea of Galilee from which Mary Magdalene came.
Meanwhile St. Mary Magdalene Parish began to hold Sunday Mass at Apex Middle School. The first Mass was celebrated on September 12, 1999. Our parish theme song was: ‘Sing to God a simple song; make it up as you go along.’ On December 5, three months later, a second Sunday Mass was added.
Cannon Architects was chosen to design a master plan for the site, which included several phases, some of which were adjusted as the parish moved forward.
The new building for classrooms and offices was completed, and Bishop Joseph Gossman came to bless the St. Mary Magdalene campus at the first Masses offered at the present site on Sunday, August 13, 2000. A 5:00pm Saturday Mass was added to the weekend schedule on October 14.
St. Mary Magdalene School opened for class on September 5, 2000 with an enrollment of 330 students in Grades Pre-K through 8th grade. It was a unique experience for the students: they had never been in the building before, never met their teachers or administrators, and many had never worn school uniforms before. It did not take long for children to get used to their new surroundings.
The school was ready for them. The principal, Bob Cadran, had worked for the previous year to hire faculty, order the desks and all equipment for the school, and watch over the final process of the school construction.
St. Mary Magdalene School—like St. Michael School—was governed by a Board appointed by the three parishes that support the two schools.
The colors of the parish and school are burgundy and gray with gold accents, and the mascot is the St. Mary Magdalene Monarch Butterfly. The athletic teams prefer the short form of Monarchs.
In 2001 Bishop Joseph Gossman announced a major Capital Campaign called ‘God’s Work, Our Challenge’ to raise funds for Diocesan needs. Parishes were invited to join the Campaign for their own needs, and St Mary Magdalene took that opportunity to raise funds for a 2nd building, which would include a gym, dining hall, some classrooms, and a chapel.
Construction began in January 2003 and the first Masses in the gym were the weekend of August 21-22, 2004. There were sufficient seats for more than 1,100 people; the children seemed to prefer sitting in the bleachers where they could easily see the altar. Bishop Joseph Gossman came to bless the new building on September 19, 2004. 2 additional classrooms for the school were added in 2009 – 2010.
In September 2011 Bishop Michael Burbidge made the announcement of plans for a new Cathedral in Raleigh. All parishes were invited to participate in two ways: 1. By taking up free will pledges with the proviso that the parish would not take any Campaign of its own for three years, or 2. If a parish wanted to piggy-back a local Campaign with the Cathedral Campaign; in this case the parish would be required to meet its assigned goal. St Mary Magdalene for the second time was seeking to raise funds at the same time as the Diocese.
Our Parish Council recommended that we join with the Diocese, and the parish began to plan with Canon Architects and Clancy and Theys Construction Company to design the new church building.
In December 2011 we became aware of two stained glass windows of St. Mary Magdalene, one of her at the Resurrection and one of her as a young woman. The windows were from two closed churches – St. Peter and St. Paul, both in Troy, New York. The windows were about 125 years old and were designed by the famous firm Franz Mayer of Munich, Germany. the window set were four other windows and a Rose Window. one week members of the parish offered to purchase the windows, and later the Knights of Columbus offered to pay for the Rose Window.
During his 2012 summer trip to Vietnam Father Staib became aware of a studio in Ho Chi Minh City -- still called Saigon by the people -- where wooden statues were carved by young men with hearing disabilities. He began a process of working with this studio to create Statues and Stations of the Cross for our new church. In Da Nang, Vietnam he knew of marble studios and asked them to design two angels for the Columbarium. The faces of these two angels are the same faces as the angels in our Fontanini Christmas figures.
In August 2012 the parish began its Capital Campaign called ‘Our Church Our Time.’ The remainder of 2012 and all of 2013 were taken with the raising of funds for the church, for organizing committees to research and seek advice on all aspects of construction, with meetings with architects and experts to plan for the infrastructure of the building. 15 listening sessions were scheduled to hear feedback from members of the parish and to ask for financial commitments.
On the 4th Sunday of Advent 2013, December 22, Bishop Burbidge came to bless the new church site. In addition members of the parish, with 1,500 Holy Water bottles also sprinkled the site with Holy Water.
All of 2014 and 2015 were taken with preparations: Diocesan Committees, Town of Apex, Architect proposals, meetings with our own Building Committees, raising sufficient funds. It was a steady on-going process. During this time we also developed our parish e-news to send once a week.
On January 17, 2016 after all the Masses we took ribbons with our names into the woods where the church would be and fastened the ribbons to a cross which we eventually brought into our Activities Building lobby and will be kept in the new church building. Construction finally began in January 2016. Then followed about a month of rain and mud, so initial ground movement was slow.
St. Mary Magdalene is most grateful to all of its members and those in the parishes of St. Andrew and St. Michael who contributed to Campaign 2000 for an outstanding beginning. Generous gifts and pledges to the Our Church our Time Campaign made the church construction possible.
We are also grateful to the members of the parish staff and school staff who have served with talent and dedication. There are thriving programs in our School, Faith Formation, for our Youth, musicians for three Masses, Parish Athletics which serves the community, and our own support staff which keeps all activities coordinated.
This written history is a story mostly of buildings. A far more wonderful story is the community of people who come to St Mary Magdalene for worship and for service. We have made so much up ‘as we went along’ and it is wonderful and gratifying to behold.