By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
OXFORD — St. Mary Parish-Oxford’s parish hall has been a mainstay for generations, but parishioners say it’s time to say goodbye and make way for a new structure that will better serve the current needs of the parish and community.
“Many memories have been made at the current parish hall …weddings, funeral dinners, CCD classes, wedding showers, baby showers, craft shows, fundraisers, rehearsal dinners, etc,” said Beth Hahn, director of the parish’s youth ministry and confirmation programs. “But, it’s time that we met the needs of our younger generations and update to a facility that can accommodate our religious education program and parish gatherings. It is essential that the hall be an extension of our church to really capture everyone and welcome new members to the parish.”
The parish launched a capital campaign in February for a new parish center that will be attached to the church and alleviate current issues regarding handicap access, parking and religious education space, said parishioner Tim Hennes.
The existing parish hall/faith formation center is located two blocks from the church and is a split-level building with no onsite parking. Hennes explained that the handicap access is inconveniently located on the back side of the space and the chair lift inside is not reliable.
Hahn said that the religious education space is not ideal. Because that space is also used for luncheons and other events, instructors must set up and take down makeshift classrooms, thus cutting down on education time. The space is not soundproof. Additionally, she noted that adults and older teenagers feel cramped in the space.
Hennes, who shared details of the project with more than 200 guests at a campaign kick-off event in February, said that the new addition will allow parishioners to mingle more easily after Mass. It will also be easier for individuals with physical handicaps to access. Additionally, the religious education department will have its own space.
Father Ed Dunn, the parish’s administrator, said the new parish center will cost $1.4 million. The capital campaign will continue throughout the spring and the parish hopes to break ground next year. St. Peter Parish-Cosgrove, which is also under Fr. Dunn’s administration, recently completed a parish hall campaign. Bishop Martin Amos blessed Cosgrove’s new parish center last month.
Hahn is confident that the Oxford parish and community will come together to help raise the funds. “We’re rich in family ties. Generations of families continue to be active members of our parish community,” she said. “We are also a community that is growing very rapidly … so we need to be ready to welcome new members into our parish community and we must be ready to accommodate this growth.”