The Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish mission statement urges members to “continue the ministry of Jesus Christ through word, worship, service and community building.”
Community building may well be uppermost in parishioners’ minds as they undertake an expansion project in North Lake, at one of the congregation’s two worship sites.
Besides being a practical move that will allow more people to attend fewer Masses at a time when the priest shortage is intensifying, the expansion of the church building, originally dedicated to St. Clare, represents “an evangelization effort,” according to Fr. Bill Stanfield.
Pastor at Blessed Teresa for nearly four years, Fr. Stanfield explained in a telephone interview that the building project aims to create “a church that is more welcoming and inviting.”
The expansion, he pointed out, will include a gathering space, whereas there is now only a vestibule measuring “a few feet by a few feet,” as well as provision for handicap accessibility and “a few other amenities.”
A “Growing with God” capital campaign at Blessed Teresa sought to raise $1.8 million toward expansion.
Contributions and pledges have exceeded that total by $43,000, and pledges are still being accepted.
|The parish has scheduled a
pilgrimage that will coincide with its patron’s canonization. Details are available at tinyurl.com/oe6vrp6 or by calling (262) 966-2191.
Apart from the campaign is a wish list, in conjunction with which donations can be made for signage, gathering space furniture and outdoor statues of the parish patroness at the North Lake and Monches worship sites.
The church at the latter location was dedicated to St. John before it merged with the former St. Clare Parish about 15 years ago. St. John was founded in the 1840s. The Monches and North Lake churches are approximately four miles apart.
Blessed Teresa counts some 1,600 parishioners, and the decision to expand the church in North Lake – whose oldest section dates back approximately a century and which was enlarged in the 1940s – “is what the people chose,” according to Fr. Stanfield. He indicated that, in 2014, a number of meetings were held to enable as many parishioners as possible to discuss options for Blessed Teresa’s future worship situation.
Among the options, in addition to expanding the North Lake property, were constructing a completely new facility at the North Lake site, or the Monches site, or on a 21-acre parcel of land bought by the parish for that purpose at the time of the merger, on Highway VV between North Lake and Monches; joining with parish cluster partner St. Charles, Hartland, in a church construction project; and simply continuing the status quo.
“A high percentage” of parishioners attended the 2014 meetings, Fr. Stanfield said, and favored expansion.
The Monches church seats 300. The North Lake church can accommodate 250, but its capacity will increase to 400 as a result of the project. The structure will be widened, rather than lengthened; side walls will be removed and 25 feet added on each side to provide additional seating.
“We wanted to keep the look and character of our (worship) space,” said Fr. Stanfield, who noted the entire existing church building – minus the two side walls – will be incorporated into the expansion. The church was designed by the Eschweiler architectural firm.
While the North Lake building’s length will remain the same, no one will be seated father than 11 pews from the sanctuary in the new configuration. The choir will be relocated from a loft to the front of the church, permitting its members to more easily lead the congregation in song.
“We’re also trying to use a number of parishioners” to assist in the expansion process, Fr. Stanfield said. He cited outdoor tree removal and indoor removal of pews (at least some of which will be reinstalled at project’s end) as examples. The construction company for the project, Monches Construction, is headed by a parish member.
Work is slated to begin the week following Easter.
“We hope,” Fr. Stanfield wrote in a recent parish bulletin, “to be in the new expanded space before Christmas.”
In the interim, Masses will be celebrated in Clare Hall at the North Lake parish center next to the church, as well as at the Monches site.
Meanwhile, the acreage on Highway VV is for sale.
By the time the partially new church structure reopens, it will have a slightly different name. Patroness Mother Teresa will be canonized Sept. 4, making the parish “St. Teresa of Calcutta.”