Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Apr
  • 26

Our Lady of the Angels closes in on parish center

Posted By April 26, 2012 | 1:00 pm | Lead Story #2

By William T. Clew

Our Lady of the Angels Parish wants to build a family parish center, complete with modern rest rooms for men and women, storage space, a foyer, a service kitchen and a function room with seating for 150 people.
It also wants $220,000 to finish its fund-raising effort to pay for the proposed center.
The center will be built on space between the church and the driveway to the school, with access to and from the church at the bell tower. The estimated cost of such a center is about $1 million, according to Father Charles F. Monroe, pastor.
That means that the parish needs the $220,000 to go with the $780,000 that already has been raised in the last couple of years.
When Our Lady of the Angels Church was finished in 1929, Father Monroe said, it had no rest rooms. It apparently also leaked like a sieve. He said that the Worcester Spy reported that, during the dedication ceremony, it was raining as hard inside the church as it was raining outside.
By the 1980s, about 60 percent of the church’s stonework had to be removed and brickwork inside the walls had to be repaired. The parish borrowed $1.2 million for the work. By 1994 the parish still owed $812,000, he said.  The debt finally was paid by 2005.
And the church got a rest room of sorts. It is a converted  closet behind the sanctuary. It is not accessible to people with difficulty walking and are unable to climb the stairs to get to it, Father Monroe said.
About three years ago the parish council began to make plans for a parish center. The need for better rest rooms was addressed, as was the need for a function room. The parish now can use the gymnasium in Our Lady of the Angels school, Father Monroe said. But it is not always available to the parish because of school activities. The convent building is used for other programs and its layout and the fact that it would need expensive repair and renovation work make it unfeasible for use as a parish center.
Karen Barrows, director of religious education for the parish, is quoted in a parish center campaign brochure as saying that “building community has always been important at Our Lady of the Angels. We have the enthusiasm and the drive. What we don’t have is the  space we need to conduct the activities of the community.
“We certainly have people who are willing to be involved. We just need the space for them. It’s my hope that people will think of the future, not just about the present. We need to keep our parish alive and provide for future generations,” she said.
The parish council got concept drawings from Jordan O’Connor & Associates for the parish center. According to a brochure about the proposed center, the council decided not to spend funds on detailed, working blueprints until the conclusion of the fundraising.
Coogan Associates did a feasibility study that estimated that the parish could raise $500,000  for the parish center project. Then came a surprise. Margaret Rieger, a parishioner and former school teacher from Leicester had set aside money in her estate for Our Lady of the Angels Parish, the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Our Lady of the Angels School.  After she died, her estate lawyer advised the parish that its share was $305,000.
“Diocesan rules mandate that we must have the full amount of the construction costs in pledged commitments and half of that committed amount from parishioners in the bank before we may begin work,” according to the brochure.
“The Worcester Diocese will then lend us the remaining half which we will pay down over the 36-month pledge period. For example, if the cost is $1 million, we must have that amount in pledges and $500,000 ‘in hand.’ The foresight and generosity of Margaret has provided a tremendous advantage in having half the funds already deposited and should allow us to begin construction at the conclusion of the school year.”
Father Monroe said pledge cards are being mailed. He said that he also hopes that former parishioners and former students of the school will help.


Photo by William T. Clew
Karen Barrows, director of religious education and Father Charles F. Monroe, pastor, stand in front of the site where the center is to be built.