By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
PELLA — Members of St. Mary Parish have been busy building a new storage shed. At the same time, they’ve been building relationships.
“You get to have fellowship with people you normally wouldn’t during a weekend Mass,” said Joe Brueggen, chairperson of the parish’s Buildings and Grounds Commission.
The church, built on the outskirts of Pella in 2010, is surrounded by prairie and farmland. Buildings and grounds volunteers decided to cover lawn and snow removal equipment with tarps until the day a permanent shed could be constructed.
Additional need for a storage building on parish property arose when the parish began moving forward with plans to divest of its vacant rectory, said the parish’s pastor, Father John Spiegel. The rectory’s basement had been used to store the parish’s nativity scene and other liturgical decorations.
To keep costs down, parishioners with carpentry skills offered to do as much labor as they could in-house. The finance committee approved construction of the roughly $25,000 shed last year. Fr. Spiegel said income from the parish’s Tulip Time food and beverage stand, along with parish stewardship, were enough to cover the costs.
Brueggen and other members of the Buildings and Grounds Commission worked together to make a blueprint. Plans included two rooms — one with a garage door for the equipment and an insulated one with an extra-wide standard door for liturgical decorations.
Ground was prepared in late 2016 and the parish hired a contractor to set foundation footings and a concrete pad in the spring of 2017. Wet weather dampened efforts for the parish to get a mid-spring start on the building. The first official work day took place June 17. Anyone — experienced or inexperienced — could sign up to help.
Brueggen was amazed at the interest, and it warmed his heart to see parishioners working together toward a common goal. Some made lunch, while others cleaned up debris at the end of the day. Some volunteers were eager to learn and practice basic carpentry skills.
Volunteers of all ages and skill levels helped carry wood to the volunteer workers, which saved a lot of time, Brueggen said. “It helps someone else so they don’t have to stop nailing. They can just keep going with the next plywood piece ready to be put in place.”
Saturday work days will continue until the building is done. At the start of July, the roof, shingles and outside walls were in place. About 5-15 volunteers participate each Saturday, and some of the experienced carpenters try to come by on weeknights to prepare the grounds for the next work day. Brueggen said break times have been a great opportunity for people to get to know each other. “People talk about their lives and what they like to do.”
He also believes that working toward a tangible goal will give parishioners an opportunity to bond for years to come. “The end result will make them proud of what they’ve participated in!”