SELMA, Alabama — Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile joined the Society of St. Edmund in blessing a new $3.2 million community and recreation center in Selma sponsored by the Edmundite Missions.

The Edmundites have served the poor in the area for more than 80 years. The new center, slated to be in full operation Jan. 1, will provide a safe place for neighbors to come together. It is equipped with a computer lab, gym, classrooms and a regulation-size basketball court.

The state-of-the-art facility is after Dr. Michael and Catherine Bullock of California, two of the many donors from across the country who funded the project. Dedicated Nov. 5, the new center is adjacent to the Edmundites’ Bosco Nutrition Center, where more than a 1,000 meals are served daily.

Jeff Cothran, executive director of the United Way of Selma & Dallas County, said poverty in the area is deep and endemic.

“To have the Fathers of the Society of St. Edmund continue to invest and provide service, and to provide leadership both in the faith community and in mentoring our young people it is priceless,” he said. “This is a glimpse of what could be.”

Edmundite Fathers Francis Casey and John Paro founded Edmundite Missions in 1937 after Pope Pius XI appealed to their religious community to minister to the African Americans of the Deep South.

The Edmundites discovered thousands of people living in extreme poverty in Selma. The Society of St. Edmund is still deeply involved in the work it began there 82 years ago, providing food, clothing and shelter to poor and marginalized people of all faiths, while attempting to address the long-term issues of systemic poverty.

Mina Roussell, an Edmundite Missions board member, said the center is a beacon of hope in the city.

“This is an investment in our community,” she said. “Selma has a long history of a lot of conflict, but there are people here who desire a whole lot more and want to do a whole lot better.”

Edmundite Missions Controller Phyllis McCullough agreed. “We are a family-oriented county and city,” she said. “We are not the Selma of long ago. It does not matter if you are black or white. We love each other.

“This new community center really solidifies all that the Edmundites do for Selma. This building and is a true symbol of hope,” she added.

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