Parishioners at St. Patrick, Elkhorn, should have a new space to gather before and after Christmas Mass this year.
“That’s the prayer,” said Ray Henderson, director of faith formation for the parish. “This has been in the works for many, many years. People are excited it’s finally happening.”
Over the past 30 years, the parish has conducted studies and developed plans to meet its building needs, said Tony Balestrieri, chairperson of the strategic planning committee. After changing the plans numerous times, the parish received approval from Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki at the end of February to tear down the current building that houses the rectory and office space and replace it with a church addition that will contain a narthex, offices and meeting spaces.
The hope is that the building project will do more than provide extra space, said the parish’s pastor, Fr. Oriol Regales.
“We are hoping, by having this new church addition and restoration, we will be more welcoming for more people,” Fr. Regales said. “We especially want to attract young families, and to fulfill Christ’s mission to go out and make more disciples. The idea is to be more welcoming, so that when you come here, you feel more like that this is the house of God, that you are a part of God’s family.”
Addition to feature gathering space
The two-story addition will feature a main entrance for the church, which will open up into a vestibule, foyer and narthex.
“We never had any of those things before,” said Balestrieri, an architect who has been working voluntarily on the parish building project since 2004. “Those had always been part of the outdoors. When people would gather before and after Mass, they would meet out in front of the church, out on the sidewalk and all the way across the street.”
The project also includes replacing the asbestos church roof, working on the bell tower and painting theinterior of the church, which holds 400 people, said Fr. Regales. The church roof will be fireproofed, sprinklers will be installed and the flooring in the church will be replaced with tile and carpet.
“It will look up to date,” Fr. Regales said. “It will be welcoming and attractive.”
Clear glass will replace about 45 feet of the east wall of the church. The narthex will be located directly on the other side of the glass.
Because the church is more than five feet above sidewalk level, an elevator is being installed, Balestrieri said.
“Right now we have a lift that is available for funerals, but everybody is afraid to use it,” he said.
On the east side of the narthex, people will be able to enter a 483-square-foot conference room, a courtesy room for brides and visiting dignitaries, and the office area, which includes the pastor’s office, four private offices, a break room and a work room, Balestrieri said.
The lower level, which will have exterior windows, will feature a serving kitchen, a meeting room that will hold about 200 people, and three smaller meeting rooms, Balestrieri said. Handicapped-accessible bathroom facilities will be installed on both levels.
Stained glass windows being removed from the east wall of the church will be reused. The curved pieces of glass at the top of existing windows will be reset into the upper portion of the new wall, while the rectangular pieces will be set in other areas of the vestibule, church and narthex.
Fr. Regales, who has lived in the rectory for the past three years, moved in February to an Elkhorn apartment because of the construction. The addition does not include a rectory because the archdiocesan vision for 2020 calls for the parish to share a pastor with St. Andrew Parish, Delavan.
“Delavan has a wonderful house for a priest, so to build one house here and have one house there would be a misuse of funds,” Fr. Regales said.
School closing not related to project
In 2004, St. Patrick ran a capital campaign to raise funds to build a church next to its school, located about a mile from the current church.
However, plans changed, and the 45-year-old school closed last year.
“I’m sorry we had to close the school,” Balestrieri said. “A lot of parameters were set before that decision was made.”
The school closing is not related to this building project, according to the pastor.
“It is completely different,” Fr. Regales said. “In any church in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, when you want to build something, you run a capital campaign. It is separate from the budget.”
And the budget had little to do with the school closing, he said.
“The school was never closed because of lack of money. It was closed because of lack of students,” Fr. Regales said. “We had 58 students last year at the school, and there were only going to be 54 returning in 4K to eighth grade this year. That was the reason the school closed.”
For those 54 students who are going to another Catholic school in the area, St. Patrick Parish is paying 100 percent of the tuition. Next year, the parish will pick up 50 percent of the cost.
“It was never closed because of lack of money,” Fr. Regales said. “If it was lack of money, we wouldn’t be able to pay that tuition.”
Meanwhile, the parish’s religious education program has ballooned from 220 students in kindergarten through 11th grade last year to 278 students this year. However, that growth may not be reflective of the school closing. The cause of the program’s increase is not clear, Henderson said.
The school houses offices for the parish staff, religious education classes and parish events. The parish also rents space to the city of Elkhorn for various events.
Beginning in October, Mass will be celebrated in the school building while the church is under construction.
So far, the parish has raised $2.25 million for the $3.6 million project, with another $350,000 pledged.
“So we are short about $1 million, but I am very confident that we will make it in the next three years,” Fr. Regales said on Friday. “People are very generous, especially when they see how things are going. And people were very happy when work began this week.”
The amount needed is substantially less than when the capital campaign was started in 2004. Back then, with a plan to build a new church next to the school, the parish faced an $8 to $10 million project.
As they learn about the new plan, parishioners have been enthusiastic, Fr. Regales said.
“We are remodeling our church; we are not building a new church,” he said. “It is much like if it’s at your home, you have your kitchen and your bathrooms, they work, they are functional. But every five, 10, 20 years, you remodel your kitchen, you remodel your bathroom for better service. And that is what we are doing right now. I mean, our church is functional, it works very well, but we need new things like new bathrooms, new crying rooms, new space for families, more meeting rooms. I explain this to people, and they support it.”