SACRED SPACE – SOCIAL PLACE
Where Faith and Friendship Thrive
IN THE BEGINNING, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church was located at the corner of Tenth and Cass streets. It was here where parishioners attended mass and received the sacraments for many, many years. When it became apparent that the aging structure could not provide for the needs of its people, a beautiful new church was built at this current location, not far from the original site.
In 1980, soon after this new church opened its doors, a young family who had recently moved to town, celebrated their new baby girl’s baptism. The christening was celebrated with family and friends who were in awe of the beautiful new church that provided much more space than the older structure.
Through the years, the girl attended mass with her parents and siblings and celebrated the sacraments. More and more people joined the parish and the family made many friends who they enjoyed visiting with after mass, and for meetings and other activities. They shared coffee and donuts, and ate many meals with their friends in the family center, and attended a variety of celebrations for holy days and holidays. The family and their daughter, who was no longer little, was proud of their church.
As time went on, and the parish grew, space became limited. The girl, who was now a young mother herself, loved the fact that she had been baptized, received her first communion, was confirmed, and married all in this beautiful church. She also had attended the funerals of several family and friends, celebrating their lives with loved ones.
Parishioners accepted the fact that space had become limited for some meetings and events. They could be held elsewhere. After all, the school was not far and could be utilized for some events. They didn’t even mind moving outside to visit with their friends when the narthex became over crowded, even in winter.
But then, more comments and concerns were voiced about the space limitations of the building. Over the years, the administration had maintained the infrastructure, both inside and outside. The church itself was still able to accommodate for its sacred space. However, space was dwindling for other activities, such as meetings, special events, celebrations, and anything else that would bring people together.
Church leaders were listening to the comments, and thought, “Who could determine social needs better than the families themselves?” A committee of parishioners was then formed to put some organization to the process. They started with a survey to get parishioners thoughts and wishes for more functional space.
REMEMBER THE BABY baptized in 1980 at the “new” St. Francis Church? She is now grown with a family of her own, and, just as her own family was expanding, so was her parish family, with an additional 500 plus families in the last 5 years alone. More people were finding their way to St. Francis through relocation to the area for jobs, expanding families, and many found their way through the RCIA program as a new Catholic.
Lots of new friendships were being made at St. Francis, and there was always a wide variety of activities and events that made it enjoyable for the whole family. Interest in events at St. Francis soared. It was the place to be. Masses and holy day celebrations were made special by the clergy, staff and volunteers. The coming together of parishioners, lifting their voices in prayer and in song, was, and is, very powerful.
And growth is good. But, the flip side is that the current St. Francis building has limitations, and has had for some time. There just isn’t enough social space to accommodate all the activities and people who want to share in the St. Francis experience. The young mother was first made aware of this when she brought her young children to a Mother’s Day event several years ago and had to leave because there simply was not enough room in the family center that only has seating capacity for 127.
Sure, the narthex was overcrowded after every mass, but parishioners had come to expect having to stand out in the cold to visit with friends. There just wasn’t enough room in the narthex for all those who wanted to spend a few extra minutes visiting after celebrating mass.
Meeting space also was at a premium at St. Francis. As more committees were formed and interest increased, some groups had to meet off-site because there simply was not enough room. After all, there were only a handful of meeting rooms to share among 31-plus active ministries.
On the other hand, there often was too much space in the sanctuary. This was especially noticeable at weddings and funerals when attendance was light. Should there be a space more suitable for smaller sacramental celebrations that would provide a more intimate feel and level of warmth?
THE GROWING FAMILY needed more space. So, the family, now with five children, decided to look for a larger home. That seemed easy enough. But not so easy for St. Francis in its need to accommodate for a bigger parish family.
A building committee was formed to research the situation and develop some options for expansion. The sanctuary was still adequate to accommodate for worship, but other needs were obvious. The building, however, presented its challenges. Since the church had been built in 1977, the parish family had significantly outgrown the original planned community space.
The committee quickly identified the areas needed for expansion, including these obvious spaces…or lack of.
The Narthex – the – had become a tight squeeze, especially before and after masses and for special events.
The Parish Hall and Kitchen needed much more space. Its current seating capacity is for 127, which allows 1 seat for every 16 families. The family center had become too small for even the most modest events. Adequate coverage would be to accommodate 1 seat per 5 families.
Meeting space is at a premium, with only a few rooms to share among 31-plus active ministries, in addition to religious education programs.
Excitement began to build as the committee identified needs, and interest grew among the parish family. A plan was beginning to form, and it was looking like St. Francis might get that space it had been lacking for so long.
There was enough Sacred Space, and, in some cases, maybe more than enough. It was decided to also add a smaller chapel that would provide a level of warmth and intimacy for smaller worship ceremonies, such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
As more adequate Social Place was being defined and planned, the committee began to outline a capital campaign project. More volunteers came onboard the committee, and smaller committees were created to help with fundraising. After all, this project would require some capital.
The growing family had found more space in a lovely new home. They thought how nice it would be for their church to also have the space it needed. So they got on board; they joined a couple committees and volunteered to work several special events designed to raise money. And, they made a pledge.
AFTER MUCH RESEARCH AND PLANNING by the capital campaign and building committees, and with lots of input from the parish family, plans were developed and implemented to raise the necessary funds for the expansion of St. Francis.
Rough estimates of cost, at time we started our Capital Campaign, to build a new rectory, family center and chapel was $7 million.
That was a lot of money to the family who just bought their new home because they needed more space. But they were happy that their beloved church would get the space it so badly needed. They knew that if everyone would contribute, this project would become a reality.
So, they looked at their own budget and decided they could help raise the money for this project. They determined a total amount they could afford and made a pledge, and then each month sent a check. They encouraged their family and friends to contribute to the project also.
The family helped to raise additional funds by participating in some of the many events and activities that were created specifically to help with the campaign. The parents and even their children volunteered for some of these events and had lots of fun doing it.
Among their favorites were the Christmas festivals, including Night of the Nativity, Fr. Ken’s garden walk, and, of course, mom and dad especially enjoyed any event held at a winery. And they loved the garage sale that allowed them to donate some of the things they didn’t need in their new home.
The capital campaign and building committees were working hard with the Diocese to obtain the necessary approvals and develop construction documents, so the project could begin on schedule.
There was a lot of excitement among the parish family, especially as they watched the new rectory break ground early in 2018.
The parish family was generous, as pledges were made, and money came in. They were almost there with the necessary funds to make the dream come true. Just a little more, but they knew it could be done if everyone continued with financial support. After all, this project was a special gift to the current parish family, and to future generations of St. Francis families. They had dug deep and pledged their support because they loved their church and looked forward to all the opportunities the expansion would provide. There was a lot of excitement in the air among the parishioners of St. Francis.
When the family learned that the diocese had approved an opportunity to provide a memorial tribute, they decided to make an additional gift of $1,000 in memory of their loved ones who had passed away. Now, this project had become personal and very special.
New Rectory…Narthex and Information Center…Parish Hall and Kitchen…Additional Ministry and Religious Education Spaces…Chapel…What once had been a dream, is now becoming reality.