By Celine Klosterman
FAIRFIELD — Stretching into the sky, thanks to an anonymous donor, is a bell tower. Courtesy of another anonymous supporter, St. Mary Church’s parking lot is paved. And due to donations of labor from parishioners Ron and Fran Bovard, windows from the existing church will be restored and installed in the new building.
“The extreme generosity of our parish has been nothing short of fantastic,” said John Hammes, co-chair of the steering committee for St. Mary Parish. Hundreds of parishioners have offered time, talent and money to build St. Mary’s new church at 3100 W. Madison Ave., where Bishop Martin Amos will celebrate a dedication Mass at 2 p.m. Jan. 31. Following the final weekend Mass in the existing church, parishioners will offer reflections during a Closing Prayer Service at 4 p.m. Jan. 24, preceded by adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from 3-3:45 p.m.
As of early this week, some electrical work, installation of pews and finishing touches to the baptismal font in St. Mary’s new church had yet to be completed. “Essentially, it’s going to be finished,” Hammes said. “…It is very gratifying to see our new parish home coming to completion.”
In that new home, the 1907 cornerstone from the existing church is embedded. Near the entrance are two covered beams bearing the signatures of parishioners and Father Stephen Page, pastor.
A statue of Mary from the existing building will be placed on a pedestal outside, and dark blue paint, the hue of a night sky, colors the church’s vaulted ceilings.
The building will replace the 370-family parish’s 102-year-old church, which will be torn down. The church suffers from chronic structural problems; its social hall lacks reliable heating and cooling systems, and both buildings lack handicapped accessibility.
In contrast, Hammes said the new 25,000-square-foot building will use cost-efficient geothermal heating and cooling and is “very user friendly; there’s not a step in it.”
Features include a worship space with fan-shaped seating that will hold 340-420 people, a gathering space, a family/choir room, offices, a social hall that seats 300-350 people, and a religious education wing with space designed for a preschool. A reservation chapel will be lit at night and visible to passing drivers.
“It looks like a church,” Fr. Page said. That’s what the parishioners wanted.”
No rectory is being built, but the master plan includes an area for a priest’s residence, Hammes said.
Merit Construction Company in Cedar Rapids is serving as general contractor. Beringer Ciaccio Dennell Mabrey of Omaha is St. Mary’s architectural firm, whose “guidance and passion” the parish is very grateful for, Hammes said.
Cost for the building is estimated at $6.7 million.