Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Jun
  • 20

Renewing soul, spirit, buildings

Posted By June 20, 2013 | 12:54 pm | Lead Story #1

By Tanya Connor

A church faced with tombstone marble instead of red brick – a money-saving measure a century ago – now needs half a million dollars to remain open, according to the pastor.
But despite its own maintenance problems, the parish is going out on mission.
Blessed John Paul II Parish in Southbridge needs a new boiler by this fall for Notre Dame, one of its four church buildings, said Father Peter J. Joyce, pastor. The bell tower also needs to be fixed. Together the two projects are expected to cost $500,0000.
“We’ve got a lot of building stuff going on,” Father Joyce said. “We’re trying to build the spirit and the soul of the parish as well.”
Among evangelization efforts are Year of Faith parish missions, Father Joyce said. He said parishioner Severina Rios came up with the idea in response to Pope Francis calling for Catholics to get out of their churches and into the streets.JPII-southbridge-WEB
On Mondays and Thursdays, from July 1 to Aug. 22, there are to be missions from 6-8 p.m. (There will be no mission July 4.) There are to be two missions each in seven neighborhoods.
The outdoor missions are to begin with an ice-breaker and continue with lay people preaching in English and Spanish, followed by a bi-lingual Mass celebrated by one or more of the parish’s three priests, then light refreshments. Father Joyce said the latter is key; it’s a time for conversation with participants, learning about their needs for sacraments and religious education and informing them of Mass times.
Meanwhile, the parish is half way through a capital campaign to raise money for Notre Dame’s maintenance, Father Joyce said.
He said he announced at Masses May 19 that the insurance inspector rescinded the parish’s certificate of operation for the boiler that heats Notre Dame Church because it is dangerous to operate. Fixing the boiler would be expensive and not the best option, and using it would risk losing insurance coverage, he said.
He also said some of the marble bricks in the bell tower over the main entrance of the church cracked and moved. They were temporarily secured in December 2012, and the mason said that could make it safe for five to ten years, he said.
“It’s not responsible stewardship” to replace the boiler and be unable to fix the tower, Father Joyce said, so if the parish cannot afford both, Notre Dame church building will need to be closed.
A century ago, the church was to be built of red brick, but Bishop Thomas D. Beaven of Springfield said that was too expensive, according to a parish history by Albert N. LePain.
A later plan also called for red brick. But then the pastor, Msgr. Louis O. Triganne, was able to purchase leftover marble tombstones slated for Spanish-American War casualties, at a bargain price, the history says. The tombstones were cut into large bricks for the facing of the church, which was dedicated in 1916.
Blessed John Paul II Parish has three other church buildings, as well as other buildings. It was formed from St. Mary, St. Hedwig and Notre Dame of the Sacred Heart parishes in 2011. The latter was formed from Notre Dame and Sacred Heart of Jesus parishes in 2010.
In accordance with Church law, the church buildings kept their names when the new parish was formed and named. Sacred Heart Church was closed, but remains parish property, and the other three churches are used for various Masses, Father Joyce said.
The new parish inherited a debt of more than $2 million, Father Joyce said, so he did not ask to borrow money from the diocese for the boiler and tower projects.
The present boiler heated just Notre Dame Church, not the attached rectory, he said. If the church is not heated this winter, some of its artwork would need to be removed to preserve it, or the temperature would have to be kept above freezing, even if too low to be comfortable for worshippers, he said.
The building is unique in its design, architecture and the quality of the workmanship, and many people are making severe sacrifices to save it, Father Joyce said. At the other extreme are those who don’t want to spend a penny, he said.
Since May 19, $270,000 has been pledged and $106,000 of that has been collected for the boiler project, he said. He said ideally he would like to have $200,000-$250,000 in hand by Aug. 1 to put that project out to bid, in order to get it done in time for winter.
The present system uses steam heat, but the plan is to change to forced hot air, which would be cheaper and will enable air conditioning to be installed when and if funding is available, he said. He said Notre Dame’s windows do not open, and fresh air is no longer brought in by vents. To switch to forced hot air, the current boiler, radiators and asbestos must be removed, he said.
Father Joyce expressed hope that the tower can be fixed next year.
The flashing between the copper steeple and white marble tower was of inferior material or improperly installed, so water got behind the marble facing and caused damage, Father Joyce said. He said new flashing is needed and cracked marble bricks need to be replaced.