Our history in the making began its mark in 1956, when Atlanta-area businessman and Buford resident, Bona Allen, donated 10 acres of land in Buford to the Archdiocese of Atlanta in honor of his long-time employee, Leo Lawler. Bona Allen, owner of one of the largest tanneries in the world and employer to over 2000 people, was moved by the commitment of this devout Catholic father of five to transport his family by train to Atlanta every Sunday to attend Mass. Allen’s one stipulation to the gift was that a church be built on the property within 20 years or the property reverted back to the family estate.
The years passed by with the Catholic population in North Gwinnett growing ever so slowly In 1973, a Buford mission was established. Lawler had been attending Mass in Gainesville, then in his home for a short time. The mission then moved its Mass location to Tapp Funeral Home in Buford. But in 1975, with Leo Lawler’s “wick growing short”, he sought out the help of Vic Maloof, fellow Catholic and architect by trade, to quickly design a small building. Thirteen original families, including current POP Deacon Bill Speed, friends and several other families celebrated the first Mass on Christmas eve in 1975, thus the name of the mission (parish status to follow) in Buford was christened – Prince of Peace Catholic Church. In poor health, Lawler missed that special night but was present for its dedication on July 10, 1977. He died a few months later in November.
Over the years, Prince of Peace Catholic Church flourished. It began to grow prompting a large expansion in 1987 with a multi-purpose building. (The original plan called for building a more permanent church on the same site in Buford at a later time.) Weekend Concessions at Road Atlanta provided the mortgage payoff and a small rectory. In 1989, the sides were expanded to accommodate more people. The parish continued its growth into the 90’s as northern Gwinnett population exploded. With the opening of the Mall of Georgia in the late 90’s, the Buford Drive corridor suddenly became a major thoroughfare through Buford, Georgia traveling north to Cumming, and connecting with Ga. 400. The parish database, at 800 families in the early 90’s, suddenly was closing in on 2000 families at the millennium.
All this growth in families, yet the parish continued to worship in the same space built for 500 people. Masses were added, including a Spanish Mass reflecting the growing Hispanic presence and then the Life Teen Mass on Sunday night. Growth continued and the parish was approaching a decision point. No more Masses could be added. There was no educational space (the parish leased space at the Buice Center, a nearby school in Sugar Hill, for education) and meeting space for ministries was in short supply. With only 15 acres of land on site, it was time to consider a radical change and the parish began a search for a new home. It took more than two years, consideration of more than 80 parcels of land, and ultimately required a change in the parish boundaries to extend the search north of Gwinnett County into Hall County. In October of 2002, a major milestone was reached with the cash purchase of 65 acres on Spout Springs Road in Flowery Branch.
Architects, Chapman Griffin Lanier & Sussenbach (CGLS), were hired in May 2002 and a 15 year master plan was developed with multiple phases. The first phase included a multi-purpose Parish Life building to serve as a temporary worship space seating 800 people and also housing an administrative wing. It also included an education building connecting the parish life center via a large narthex / gathering space. The main church and day chapel was planned for future phases. With 65 acres at the parish’s disposal, also included in the master plan was space for a K-8 school, in the hopes for a future school.
The parish began a “Forward in Faith” capital campaign in December 2003 with three year commitments in pledges of almost $4.5 million. Upon its successful completion, the parish invited extensions on the pledges and invited newcomers to participate. Official groundbreaking in Flowery Branch occurred on March 23, 2005. Our buildings for Phase I were completed in record time and we celebrated our 30th anniversary with Christmas Masses on December 24/25, 2005. Dedication of the altar by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory was celebrated on January 7, 2006. Yet another first occurred in September 2006 as we opened our doors to 100 of our littlest people in our Preschool.
This community, situated on the gateway to beautiful north Georgia, welcomes people of all life experiences, cultural backgrounds and family make up. All are invited to plan a visit, join us when your traveling through town, or check us our for the first time on a Sunday or one of our events. If you're looking for a place to call home, we'd love to have you be part of this story!