By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
GRINNELL — St. Mary Parish has announced plans for a new parish center designed to accommodate parish offices, new classroom spaces, gathering space, a prayer garden, a 280-seat banquet hall and a fully equipped commercial kitchen for parish and community events. Depending on the results of a capital campaign, the parish hopes to break ground in late spring.
The parish pastor, Father Ron Hodges, said the new parish center would alleviate a variety of issues, including lack of a sufficient gathering space.
“St. Mary’s was built in 1927 when not a lot of thought was given to gathering spaces,” Fr. Hodges explained. We have a small plaza in front of the church but it isn’t or can’t be used during extreme heat, snow, rain, etc.”
The extra gathering space would allow parishioners to converse prior to entering the church for Mass without worrying about bothering people who are praying in the pews. “The social life of the parish will be impacted greatly when we add the gathering space.”
Additionally, the new classroom spaces in the parish hall would alleviate a current safety issue. Currently, children and adults taking or teaching religious education classes must cross a busy street in order to get to the parish’s education center. Many of the classes take place in the evening. “We want to minimize any possibility that the students might be injured,” Fr. Hodges said. He’s also excited about the fact that all parish offices would be located in one area in one building.
Fr. Hodges said Grinnell College has been helpful in the process of identifying needs. He hopes that the new parish center will make St. Mary’s a place where Grinnell College students can feel welcome. Additionally, the new banquet hall should allow the parish to collaborate with the city of Grinnell in hosting community events.
The projected cost of the parish center project (including renovations to the existing church) is $2.3 million. A fundraising campaign is underway with a goal of raising $800,000 before groundbreaking.
The St. Mary’s Parish Foundation (a separate nonprofit entity) recently announced a decision to pledge $25,000 toward the project costs in the form of a Challenge Matching Grant. All new gifts and pledges received at St. Mary’s Catholic Church from now through Dec. 31 will be matched, dollar-for-dollar up to $25,000 by the foundation.
Persons with questions about the parish center or an interest in making a gift to the campaign may contact Joe Bagnoli, building project committee chairperson, at (641) 990-1436; Kathy Utech, building campaign fundraising committee chairperson, at (641) 990-2757; or Fr. Hodges at (641) 236-5289.
Fr. Hodges hopes that the new parish center and church upgrades will “situate the parish well for the next number of years and will be a step toward the goal of St. Mary’s being an active and vital member of the downtown Grinnell community.”