St. Stephen Parish is the realization of a dream of about six couples who felt that they needed a place of worship and gathering in the Bentonville area. Going to outlying churches, they just couldn’t feel the closeness, warmth and unity of a parish family. Also, it was difficult getting to church in inclement weather.
These people rallied the Catholics in the Bentonville area and began positive steps toward building a parish family. Toward the end of 1987 the request was presented to the Most Reverend Andrew J. McDonald, Bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock.
The Bishop approved the project and thus the first Catholic Community in Bentonville was taking shape. The embryonic Catholic Church of Bentonville was designated a mission of St. Vincent de Paul Church of Rogers with the Pastor, Rev. Richard Oswald with Rev. John Marconi, Associate Pastor, in charge. As a result, the first Mass of the Bentonville Catholic Church was celebrated on March 5, 1988 in a public building. About 150 people comprised the new parish.
The name of St. Stephen was chosen for the parish. A building committee was formed. A Pastoral Council was elected. A building fund was underway and enthusiastic parishioner pledges were received. Financing was arranged through the Diocese. Building contractors were engaged. Good progress was soon apparent.
The initial plan called for a multi-purpose building with facilities to serve a growing parish. Today a permanent church building is attached just west of the present structure. This multi-purpose building is now our Parish Life Center.
After two moves to public school buildings and the necessary planning and construction of the new building at 1300 NE “J” Street, the first Mass in the new facility was happily celebrated on October 6, 1991 at 10:00 AM.
The rapid rate of construction and final completion was certainly the result of the fine supervision of the building superintendent and the cooperation of our enthusiastic pastors and lay people involved. During all the moving and shifting, a number of other positive things were happening. The PSR program with about 50 children registered was started. First Communion was held, as were Confirmation readiness classes. The CYO (later changed to Catholic Youth Ministry) was formed. The Ladies Altar Society was organized. Our choir was established. The Sunday bulletins were published and church dinners on special occasions were started.
The formal dedication by the Most Reverend Andrew J. McDonald was held on November 9, 1991. Assisting clergy were Rev. Richard Oswald, Pastor; Rev. Laval Coutre, Associate Pastor; Rev. John Marconi, former Assoc. Pastor and Rev. Mr. Leslie Vendl, Deacon.
A number of changes have since taken place. Father John Marconi was transferred and Father Laval Coutre was assigned as temporary Associate Pastor. Father Laval was later transferred, and Father Michael Sinkler was sent to us. Father Sinkler was transferred and Rev. Msgr. Scott Marczuk is now pastor.
Our new worship space was dedicated on March 28, 2004. Seating 950 people immediately, and expandable to 1400 as we continue to grow.
To further note the progress, St. Stephen has baptisms, marriages, funerals, First Communions and Confirmations. Our Religious Education programs have grown to over 425 students. We have various Adult Formation classes and RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation). We also have dinners and various other activities. Very important to the administration of the church is its staff and volunteers.
We dedicated our Columbarium February 19, 2006, and then doubled the size in 2015. The current capacity is 288. Its stone façade is similar to the Baptism Font in the worship space.
The facility now provides us the dedicated worship space we have needed for so long. The environment of this area is simplistic but beautiful in its angles and colors. The stained glass that adorns the tower and Eucharistic Chapel, Baptistery, sculpture of the Risen Christ and Liturgical décor all reflect the vision of who we are as a parish and brings into full focus a setting of holiness to be in communion with our Lord.
In addition, our worship space has many wonderful areas that are attached for our use.
The Narthex that you enter from is for gathering before and after Mass, for parents to take their children to calm them and then return to Mass. This area also houses the Parish office, Accounting/Liturgy office and Elementary Education office. We have three Chapels, one Eucharistic Devotional Chapel and St. Francis of Assisi Day Chapel and Reconciliation Chapel. Three large meeting rooms, Library/Conference room, work sacristy and liturgical environment store room, choir practice room, dressing sacristy for priest, deacon and altar servers surround the perimeter of the worship space.
Parish Life Center
We are now fortunate to be able to use our old worship space as our new Parish Life Center. This will give us so many opportunities to gather in fellowship for our parish dinners, social gathering on Sundays, youth retreats, etc. When this building was originally built it was designed to be both an area of fellowship for the Eucharistic celebration and parish social events. We now have both dedicated buildings to experience all aspects of parish life.