By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
CORALVILLE — The fastest growing parish in the Diocese of Davenport is looking to expand.
Since St. Thomas More Parish moved from Iowa City to the rapidly-expanding north corridor in 2009, membership has nearly doubled. More than 1,000 people attended Christmas and Easter Masses at a church built to seat 475, with overflow going to the multi-purpose room and lower level to watch Mass on drop-down screens and televisions. Because the parking lot cannot accommodate this number of people, many drivers must park on side streets.
The parish is looking to its 1,300 families to help raise $7 million to address these needs.
“St. Thomas More… is vibrant. It is youthful, and it is growing” said Father Chuck Adam, parish pastor. “So much, in fact, that the need for a church expansion project has become clear.”
The first step of the Growing More in Faith campaign has already been completed — retiring the debt. The parish celebrated on Palm Sunday, and kicked off the next phase of the campaign, “ALL IN for St. Thomas More,” which would expand the church to seat 1,200 people, expand the lower level and increase parking. So far, more than 200 families have pledged over $3 million toward the goal. “We knew we needed to jump right in, and we’re lucky everyone within the parish has been generous so far,” said Katie Schneider, parish accounting manager.
At the time the church was completed in 2009, the parish anticipated that future expansion and enhancements would be necessary to keep up with projected growth. Some enhancements have already been completed, including finishing the lower level.
In 2018, the parish performed a feasibility study to gauge interest in a campaign to address growth. “It was overwhelmingly positive and everyone agreed we needed to move forward. There was a worry that if people came and couldn’t find parking, and if they were constantly worshiping on the lower levels, we would lose parish members,” Schneider said. The parish members identified parking, worship space and paying off the debt as top priorities. St. Thomas More determined that expanding current facilities, as opposed to new structures, would be most cost-effective.
Schneider said the growth in the area north of Iowa City is expected to continue, with the economic development of north Coralville, Tiffin and North Liberty and the addition of new schools in the area. “It’s just exploding with residential growth,” Schneider said. More than 70 youths made their first Communion this year, and about 70 babies were baptized. “There are a lot of young families and children that participate in Mass.”