Dcn. Anton Nickolai (left) and Fr. Loyola Amalraj during the groundbreaking for the new Fellowship Hall at St. Theresa in Eagle. (Submitted photo)

After seven years of planning, St. Theresa Parish in Eagle will soon have a new Fellowship Hall.

Parishioners and members of the Building Planning Committee celebrated a groundbreaking Saturday, July 10. The event began with a Mass celebrated by Fr. Loyola Amalraj and Dcn. Anton Nickolai, followed by a ceremony, blessing of the land and picnic lunch.

The parish formed a feasibility committee to discuss their needs as a parish and their lack of gathering space to connect more closely as a community, said Steve Gulgowski, a parishioner.

“We have an old school building located a distance away that is not ADA compliant.  (It is) unwelcoming for our elderly and mobility-challenged parishioners. It is inconvenient and has deterred any after-Mass activities,” he said.

Because of the lack of gathering space, parishioners had to drive to other venues for funeral luncheons, wedding receptions and other social activities. Frequently, attendance at various occasions would suffer as many opted to continue driving home or to other errands rather than make an additional stop to a parish activity.

“Additionally, the parish offices were located in a 1920s-era building, which originally was a private pastor’s residence. The building was also not ADA compliant and, because of its age, was increasingly expensive to maintain and not up to date for today’s necessary standards,” said Gulgowski.

St. Theresa planned construction for last year, but they had to delay it due to the pandemic. The former rectory was razed in May in preparation for the groundbreaking of the 5,000-square-foot Fellowship Hall. MSI General is serving as the General Contractor for the building, estimated for completion in early 2022.

The multi-use facility will seat up to 144 guests and provide an updated church office center for Fr. Amalraj and parish office staff. Additionally, ADA-compliant restrooms will offer safe access for the elderly or those with a disability. The new bathrooms will be a sharp contrast to existing ones in the church basement, which are dark and accessible only down narrow stairs.  The new building will match the architectural style and design, and connect to the existing church building.

“It will provide a convenient gathering space to host many more events, such as coffee and donuts after Mass, small wedding receptions, funeral luncheons, larger parish meetings, and other church and community programs,” said Gulgowski. “It will have a kitchenette, which will serve small to semi-large group activities that require minimal food and beverage needs. The new building will be ADA compliant to allow all our parishioners and visitors easy and safe access to our church, Fellowship Hall and parish offices.”

The parish will continue to utilize the old school building kitchen for more significant events, such as fish fries and turkey dinners.

St. Theresa utilized a capital campaign called “Together We Build” to raise funds to cover the costs associated with the new hall, as well as using other fundraising efforts.

“We have parishioners who have also volunteered their time and talent for the new addition,” said Gulgowski. “With our prayers, volunteers and (the) financial support of many, we will succeed in our campaign. Everyone is very excited that the new addition is underway.”