article courtesy of the Morning Sun
St. Mary’s Parish in Alma is being recommended for demolition, mainly citing financing issues for a number of maintenance projects, and a decrease in membership.
“Please know this is not a decision that your Parish leadership made lightly without thorough research, consultation and prayer,” said Finance Council Chair Jim Grace and Pastoral Council Chair Brian Devine in a statement to the church’s Facebook page on Tuesday.
The church’s finance and pastoral councils, along with Rev. Nate Harburg, will meet Oct. 16 with Bishop Joseph Cistone to recommend the church and rectory be taken down, according to the church’s Facebook post.
“When surveyed the councils were nearly unanimous in the need to take down St. Mary Church,” Grace and Devine said in the statement.
Rev. Harburg released a statement on the Nativity of the Lord Parish website.
“I want to acknowledge that many parish family members are experiencing sadness and various stages of grief. Some have expressed that they feel like God is leaving their area,” Harburg said.
However, he said there are positives to the situation.
“We are at a cross-roads, a new beginning, in the history of our parish, and Parish leaders have many ideas about possibilities to renew our parish,” he said. “This is an opportunity to build a stronger parish family and community as we work and worship together.”
All Masses, Confessions, and Friday Adorations are offered at Mt. St. Joseph Church in St. Louis until further notice.
A long list of repairs to the church include replacing the entire roof including spires; water damage to interior coves; the front steps; carpet, pews, and floor slope.
If repairs are undertaken, code repairs would be needed and, if these are done, the church’s entire interior is recommended for restoration.
Building surveys done in 2015 and this year detail a history of needed repair.
The 2015 survey concluded minimally maintaining both the church and the rectory.
“In reviewing the results of the survey, the councils recommended to Band-Aid St. Mary Church instead of fully repairing the roof, fixing the damaged block wall, repairing and painting the interior finish, repairing and replacing the carpets and pews as well as doing something about the slope in the floor that is difficult for some of our parishioners,” the church officials wrote.
Financial standing for the church caused minimal maintenance to be done: “The only structural improvements done to any of our campus buildings were reactionary in nature, repairing and replacing that which had already failed.”
The church is currently closed due to ongoing air quality testing.
It is not yet known how long the church has been closed or how long air quality testing has been going on or what exactly for.
However, the church reported the air quality to be “acceptable” but that it is costly to complete the repairs, and for liability reasons.
Bats have also been an issue at the church.
Heavy rain in July caused a large section of the church ceiling to collapse, and all repairs since have failed.
Water infiltration was discovered in sections of the roof and blocked walls by an air quality inspector.
Low church attendance is the other major factor.
The church seats 735 people at full capacity but has seen attendance as low as 370 as of last year since the merger in 2013 of St. Mary’s Parish in Alma and Mt. St. Joseph’s Parish in St. Louis into Nativity of the Lord Parish.
“As important as it is to talk about our physical structures, a bigger concern is our parish community, our brothers and sisters that no longer worship with us, and what can we do as a parish to reverse this trend,” church officials said. “The councils along with all of Nativity of the Lord Parish and Father Nate will continue to explore options for our parish, considering our parish population, our financial status and the working of the Holy Spirit in our community.”
There are no plans to close or demolish Mt. St. Joseph Parish, Devine said Wednesday.