By Celine Klosterman
PELLA — St. Mary Parish is just days away from celebrating Mass in its new church.
The growing, 330-family congregation will dedicate its new building in northwest Pella July 19 at 2:30 p.m., when Bishop Martin Amos presides at the first Mass there. St. Mary’s hopes the new worship space will better accommodate a rising number of parishioners and religious education students.
The 18,800-square-foot church will seat about 450 people; St. Mary’s former building seats 200. The 30-year-old church occasionally was so full during Sunday Masses that some Catholics had to sit in the basement, Father Dennis Hoffman, pastor, has said. But the church is too close to neighboring buildings to expand.
St. Mary’s new building was constructed for about $4.3 million, said Bob Kubacki, co-chair of the parish’s campaign committee. The parish has so far raised $2.4 million and is amid its third three-year campaign. Kubacki also said St. Mary’s raised $1,400 after reaching out to every other St. Mary Parish in the United States.
Plans call for the Pella building to serve as the parish’s worship space until a larger, 1,000-seat area is added in “15-20 years,” Fr. Hoffman said. At that point, the worship space will be converted into a fellowship hall.
Now, having more space for Mass participants will allow St. Mary’s to celebrate just two Masses a weekend instead of three. “This will get us together as a faith community more,” said Frank Walczyk, building committee member. “I think you get more of a feeling of family when you’re able to gather at one Mass on Sunday.”
The larger building also will let St. Mary’s combine multiple Wednesday-evening religious education sessions into one session. About 225 students in the program had previously met in the church basement and next door to the church in a house that hadn’t space for all kindergarteners through sixth-graders to meet at once, said Carol Laughlin, director of religious education. She said student enrollment has remained steady for the past couple years, but had grown for several years previously.
“We have lots of young families with children coming into the community and the parish,” she said. “…We’re really excited about our new facility and being able to meet the needs of our people in a better way.”
The zero-step accessible building includes space for up to 12 classrooms, a kitchen and offices. The facility doesn’t include a rectory, though long-term plans call for a priest’s residence. Fr. Hoffman will continue living in the parish’s current rectory for now.
In the new church, traditional-style windows created by Pella Corporation offer a view of nearby Big Rock Park. A crucifix made from a new cross and an old, Italian carving of Jesus’ corpus from a former crucifix hangs behind the altar. And on pillars hang Stations of the Cross designed by the late Father Ed Catich, renowned artist and founder of the art department at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
Environmentally friendly features include recyclable carpet in classrooms and offices, and paint with low levels or no level of volatile organic compounds.
“It’s a nice facility,” Fr. Hoffman said.
The Samuels Group in Wausau, Wis., served as general contractor, and RDG Planning & Design in Omaha served as architectural firm.
St. Mary’s former church is for sale. The house previously used for religious education and parish offices sold last month.