By Marc and Julie Anderson
SCRANTON — It was an afternoon of firsts.
St. Patrick Parish in Scranton celebrated several on Dec. 15, including the first Mass in the parish’s new 3,200 square-foot church.
Designed by Peterson Architectural Group and built by Shirley Construction, the church features many furnishings from the original church built in 1917, including the statuary, chandeliers, Stations of the Cross, altar and two of the original stained-glass windows. It’s been years in the making.
Lee Kraus, head of the building committee, said Father Richard Storey, one of the parish’s former pastors, appointed him to his position nearly 13 years ago.
After assessing various restoration options of the old church building, the parish quickly determined a price tag of at least $4 million to $5 million was not feasible for the parish of approximately 225 families.
Instead, the parish decided to build a new church. But it would have to wait a while.
“Father [Storey] told me we had to make the church last for at least 10 years,” Kraus said. He was surprised it lasted that long. Its mortar was literally turning to sand and crumbling brick by brick.
Having decided to build a new church with a seating capacity of 150, a capital campaign — along with numerous fundraisers — raised the necessary $522,000, and the building is now nearly paid in full.
For Kraus, who has been in the parish for 40 years, looking around the church during the dedication Mass made him grateful.
“It’s really nice to have it done. And it’s a nice church, just right for our size,” he said. “We were able to come together as a small community of Catholics and get it done. Even though we are a small community, we need something here.”
Kraus was not the only one pleased.
Stan Peterson, the project’s lead architect, said he was grateful to see the culmination of years of work by parishioners, especially the building committee. Praising committee members, Peterson said he has “an absolute love of the building committee” due to its willingness to collaborate and focus on the good of the parish.
For Peterson, the day marked the first time in his career he handed keys and blueprints of a Catholic church to an archbishop. He presented them to Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann just prior to Mass.
Having received the keys, the archbishop then handed them to Father Konda Reddy Nusi, the parish’s pastor. For Father Nusi, too, the afternoon marked a first in his life, the first time he has been involved in a building project here in the United States.
Having arrived in the United States late this past summer and at the parish on Oct. 1 for his first assignment, Father Nusi has been in the country for less than six months.
After Father Nusi unlocked the doors, he, along with more than 200 parishioners, the archbishop, master of ceremonies Father Bruce Ansems and Deacon Kenn Clem, a parishioner who will be ordained in 2019, processed into the church.
During his homily, the archbishop remarked that while the day of the church’s dedication had been delayed for various reasons, the third Sunday of Advent seemed fitting as it is called Gaudete Sunday. In Latin “gaudete” means “rejoice” and the completion of a church is, indeed, a reason to rejoice.
As Mass continued, one more first caught everyone by surprise. During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the smoke alarms sounded as a result of the incense used earlier. The incense had been transferred to the vesting sacristy to be extinguished.
Near the end of Mass, Father Nusi read prepared remarks of gratitude saying, “Gratitude is an attitude of heart. As the psalmist sings, ‘How lovely is your dwelling place, OLord.’ We all thank God for all his countless blessings toward the completion of this church.”
As he continued, the pastor thanked everyone involved in making the “dream of a new church a reality,” including those “who have been so generous with their time, talent, treasures and prayers.”
Following Father Nusi’s remarks, Archbishop Naumann thanked the pastor.
“I would like to just add to those thanks a thank you to Father Nusi for your leadership,” said Archbishop Naumann. “You’re in a new country, a new assignment, and you have to complete the building of a church.
“It was not an uncomplicated assignment,” he admitted, to much laughter.