Just in time: Rural parish shares its ‘feel good’ story

Patty Scheetz
Contractors last month work on the foundation of St. Peter Parish in Cosgrove. Contractors discovered severely rotted beams in the foundation during work this spring, and Mass is being celebrated in the parish hall until work is completed.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

COSGROVE —Members of St. Peter Parish have been celebrating Mass in the parish hall since rotted structural beams were discovered in their small rural church in April, but they aren’t complaining. They’re thankful, because they know things could be a lot worse. No one was injured and soon they’ll be able to return to their 130-year-old church.

“It could have been a very bad situation to where it might have gotten to the point of no return, but the issue was caught in time and now a small country church storied in history is being restored/preserved for future generations,” said Curt Barkalow, parish accountant.

Earlier this year, the parish faced about $200,000 worth of foundation repairs for its 130-year-old church. Because of parishioner support and approval from the Diocesan Building Commission, St. Peter’s moved forward with the project.

Contractors made the surprising, and potentially dangerous, discovery when work was underway on the foundation project. In some places, the structural beams had rotten from six inches down to two. “The beams carry the load of the exterior walls. They run continuously around the building on top of the existing foundational wall,” said Pat Barten of Corridor Construction. Parishioner Kathy Barkalow recalled one of the contractors saying, “I don’t even know how it’s still standing.”

The beams were hidden behind interior walls in the basement and were only noticed because of work being performed on the surrounding brick. Contractors also discovered that some of the beams were older than the church, having been used for other purposes prior to their 1890 installation at St. Peter’s.

“The beams (had) other notches in the wood that were not part of the construction and some had wooded pegs,” Barten said. This was typical of the time period. “In my experience, I have witnessed all kind of other materials used when framing buildings of this age, including a decorative post for holding up an overhang laid horizontally and used as floor tresses.”

Contractors suggested the parish celebrate Mass elsewhere until the beams are repaired. For now, all liturgies take place in the parish center. Dedicated in 2016, the parish center is about 125 years younger than the church across the alley.

Parishioners say they are glad to still have a place to worship and are grateful to have the support to pay for the additional foundation repairs.

Because of the growth in the north corridor area, particularly Tiffin, the rural parish has been able to resist the fate of many other rural congregations forced to close, especially if costly repair issues become too much to support.

Repairs are underway, and St. Peter’s is expected to open its church doors again by mid-summer.

“It’s just a testament that our parishioners are willing to say, ‘Let’s do this,’ and to the diocese to say, ‘Hey, we want to keep our rural people in their house if we can do it,’” Kathy Barkalow said.

“We felt that this was a feel-good story,” Curt Barkalow said. “We are blessed in that many of our parishioners have been great in stepping forward on this and many of our large projects.”

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