For the many who knew the "before" picture, the "after" view was stunning.
On Sunday, Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Lake Villa unveiled its new, 42,000-square-foot Parish Life Center, an addition which doubled the size of its facility and adjoining school.
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Lake County Board member Tom Weber admired the expansion Sunday, saying it's "kind of like the gateway into Lake Villa."
"They are going to wonder how they ever got by without it," added Lake Villa Township Supervisor Daniel Venturi, one of the dignitaries in attendance.
The pastor, the Rev. Richard M. Yanos, led a dedication ceremony that featured parish students singing and a homily from Bishop George Rassas.
Yanos said the entire project cost $5.3 million. At the end, the parish wound up with a debt of $1.7 million.
"That seems like a lot of money and it is a lot of money, but for a parish our size, we have tackled debts like that in the past. We'll finish this off and get this building paid off," Yanos said.
Following the ceremony, Yanos led guests on a tour of the new facilities, pointing out the differences between the old and the new parish. One big difference, he said, is the parish now has its own gym, and will host its first girls' volleyball game Tuesday night.
"We never could do tournaments before. Now we can be the sponsor of tournaments," Yanos said. "Something we never had before was locker rooms for the kids. We always had to rent the facilities from the public school system for our games and our practices. We no longer have to do that."
The parish also has space now to host events for 500-plus people, and fit all 260 children it serves on the stage for Christmas programs and other assemblies.
Those programs will benefit from a state-of-the-art sound and projection system.
"I think the screen is bigger than the Round Lake Theater screen," Yanos kidded.
Another major addition is the new multipurpose room that can be separated into three different spaces for such functions as community outreach. The academic facilities were upgraded as well, with interactive white board systems added to the classrooms and a new library, replacing the makeshift one in the hallway between the old and new wings.
The old area was spruced up with new flooring, doors and frames, so it no longer looks dated. There's even a new cafeteria, so children no longer have to eat lunch in their classrooms.
"We are blessed with big cubbies and a huge space for kids to move around in," said teacher Carol Bringer.
Former Principal Mary Lou Cacioppo said the teachers deserve the upgrades, as "they have worked under very poor conditions for a long, long time."
"It's great," added Lake Villa resident Emily Fordham, who attended the school as a girl and now has a daughter enrolled. "It's a big improvement from what they had before."
Among those in attendance was one of the teachers from the 1960s, Sister Patricia Gallagher.
"I love it," she said. "I don't even recognize it anymore. It was just a little country church."