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New center honors teen bound for sainthood

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SANTEE — Guardian Angels Parish has broken ground on its new youth and young adult center, Blessed Carlo Acutis Hall.

The 2,500-square-foot, one-story building is expected to be completed in early 2022. It was named in honor of an Italian teenager on track to become the first millennial saint.

Bishop Robert McElroy blessed the construction site and took part in a ceremonial groundbreaking Sept. 19 after presiding at the parish’s 10 a.m. Sunday Mass.

“I just can’t believe that it’s actually happening,” Ayla Grazier said of the new building.

A lifelong parishioner who grew up attending the parish’s youth and young adult groups, Grazier now coordinates youth and young adult ministry at the parish.

She said the new center shows the parish’s commitment to its younger members, describing it as a “physical symbol that they belong here.”

For Grazier, the name of the new building “could not be more perfect.” She and others at the parish have told their young charges the story of Blessed Carlo, who researched and created a website devoted to Eucharistic miracles before his death from leukemia at age 15.

“Our kids already have such a connection to him,” she said.

Blessed Carlo was born in 1991 and died in 2006. He achieved an astonishing level of sanctity during his brief life, marked by deep devotion to the Eucharist and charity towards others. At the same time, he was a contemporary youth who wore Nike sneakers, enjoyed playing videogames and, in one photo, can be seen wearing a Spider-Man costume.

Grazier said that Blessed Carlo, who was beatified on Oct. 10, 2020, is perhaps more relatable for today’s youth and young adults than other saints who lived centuries ago.

“I think it brings it more to life that they could possibly be saints one day,” she said.

Consisting of one large meeting room and two bathrooms, Blessed Carlo Acutis Hall will serve as a venue for the parish’s youth group and young adult community events.

The new center will also be used for “drop-in times after school,” Grazier said. It will provide a safe environment where youth will be able to do homework or hang out with friends after classes, under the supervision of a parish staff member.

“This building means so much to me … I’m super-excited because it’s like a new place for the youth to enjoy and be around kids just like them, even if it’s just for homework or a place to hang out because you are bored at home,” said Eli Perez, 17. “Like Ayla always said, we are like family; you have people here who care for you.”

Caitlin Wilson, 23, a member of the parish’s young adult community, said, “Being able to have a place at Guardian Angels that we can call our own home is something that my friends and I have dreamed of since we were in high school. It is so exciting that we will finally have that place as young adults that we can share with today’s youth group.”

She added, “This building will help give us a space to make our own, to feel comfortable in and share in creating new memories.”

For more information, visit guardianangelssantee.org.

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