St. Joseph Marello Parish unveils new church in Granite Bay

Bishop Jamie Soto blesses the $8.5 million project during ceremony Saturday
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
-A +A

For nearly eight years, parishioners helped pack up their church after mass and load it into a van, which would be unpacked again the following Sunday.

Since 2004, the St. Joseph Marello Parish celebrated mass in the gym of Cavitt Junior High School. On Saturday, parishioners walked through the doors of their newly unveiled Catholic church on Auburn Folsom Road in Granite Bay.

“It’s much different to turn on a light and have a mass,” said parishioner Mi Mi Challstrom, smiling, on the Thursday before the grand opening.

The church facility includes a rectory, 1.5-acres of playing fields and a large parking lot, all of which sits on 14 acres of land with four acres reserved as open space.

The church seats 650 people. The parish includes 550 families from Granite Bay, El Dorado Hills, Auburn, Sacramento, Loomis and Lincoln.

“A lot of people have joined us waiting for this day,” said Challstrom, of Loomis.

During Saturday’s celebration, Bishop Jamie Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento, blessed the sanctuary and led the parish in prayers and hymns.

This is the first St. Joseph Marello Catholic Church in the world, said Father Arnold Ortiz, and priests from as far away as Rome joined the festivities.

Parishioner Sandy Harp, of Granite Bay, also participated in the special event.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she said.

Harp and her husband have attended St. Joseph Marello Church for the past five years. She said they were “oblivious to the fact we were in a gym” while celebrating Eucharist, but are still excited about the new church, which has been a long time coming.

“It’s been almost a pilgrimage,” Harp said. “It’s been an incredible journey watching our lord and Holy Ghost guide us.”

The church launched a capital campaign in 2009 to raise money to build the new facility. Despite the difficult economic times, 450 families pledged $3.8 million dollars toward the $8.5 million project. About $2.6 million has been collected. The Diocese of Sacramento loans the rest.

One family who was losing their home wanted to donate money, said Challstrom, who helped organize the campaign. Father Ortiz refused the offer, but the family persisted.

“It’s heartbreaking and it’s heartwarming at the same time,” Challstrom said. “I’ve never seen a group of people so excited, so emotional, so dedicated to making this happen.”

Parishioner Mike DeLaurentis has been with the church since day one and served on the building committee. He said the statue of Mary is dear to his heart because he and his wife funded a major portion of its cost. The statue will be dedicated to his parents.

“It’s the community of people that makes the church … and it’s a very nice community,” DeLaurentis said. “Yeah, it was no fun sitting in a gymnasium. Certainly, being in a nice building will be great. It’s the community that really makes it and that’s going to stay the same.”

The church is named for St. Joseph Marello, who was made a saint under Pope John Paul II. He was a priest in Austi, in northern Italy, in the mid to late-1800s. He was a humble man who just wanted to serve the church, Father Ortiz said.

Marello founded the Oblates of St. Joseph, a religious order dedicated to caring for the poor and educating the young. Father Ortiz said his parish strives to carry on his work. He called the new church “marvelous.”

“We’re so happy to be here,” he said. “We all did it together.”

Sena Christian can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.


St. Joseph Marello Catholic Church
7200 Auburn Folsom Road in Granite Bay
Church services: 8 a.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday; 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday