By Celine Klosterman
MUSCATINE — Muscatine parishioners hope adding a faith formation center to Bishop Hayes Catholic School will ease overcrowding in current Catholic facilities and better serve students in the faith.
About 60 Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish members and school supporters gathered on a windy evening May 30 to break ground for the 14,000-square-foot facility. The building will include eight classrooms, a youth room, offices, a conference room, multipurpose room and kitchenette. It will be used for Bishop Hayes classes, religious education and adult faith-formation events.
When Catholics undertake projects such as building the new center, they are acting as God’s own coworkers, said Father Jason Crossen, pastor of Ss. Mary & Mathias, at the groundbreaking. He prayed that God would protect workers and bring the project to completion.
A capital campaign that ended in November raised $1.7 million for the $2 million project. Parish assets will fund expenses not covered by the campaign, said Chris Weber, project coordinator and director of youth and young adult ministry for Ss. Mary & Mathias.
Frye Builders & Associates in Muscatine have been hired as general contractors. Dennis Kelly of Kelly & Associates-Architecture of East Moline, Ill., is project architect.
“We needed this five years ago,” Fr. Crossen said of the center. Religious education classes have grown, and about 420 students are now scattered into school staff rooms, closets, the church sacristy and other places not designed for classes. And the parish center, Gannon Hall, is overscheduled.
A faith formation center that unites students in one setting would help Catholics better know other members of their faith community, said Sister Cheryl Demmer, PBVM, director of religions education. “We really want to do something to build faith community, but it’s harder when people are so split up.”
The number of parishioners has grown, too. Ss. Mary & Mathias has about 1,200 families, up from 915 in 2006, and about 100 people have entered the parish over the past five years after completing the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and Children, said Fr. Crossen. But the pastor said the most noticeable increase has been in the number of active parishioners, a number he estimated has risen thanks to new activities and growing focus on getting parents involved.
“We truly need the space” a new center will provide, said Jim Compton, parish council president.
Second- through fifth-grade classes at Bishop Hayes will move into the new center, freeing up space for early-childhood programs in the school, said Weber. Preschool enrollment there grew from 38 in 2003 to about 87 in 2008.
Projections put the center’s completion date at this year’s end.