Sacred Heart parish in Paxico dedicates new parish hall
by Jessica Langdon
PAXICO — What family hasn’t looked at a price tag on a dream purchase and asked: Can we do this?
The parish family at Sacred Heart Church just north of Paxico asked themselves exactly that question as they envisioned a much-needed new church hall.
The answer was a resounding yes, largely thanks to parishioners and friends who rolled up their sleeves and made it happen.
“We had a hall that’s going on 100 years old,” said parishioner and project manager Joe Hund. “We’d outgrown it. It had a very old kitchen. . . . We had trouble, like with funeral dinners, getting people seated.”
The old hall required parishioners to maneuver among multiple levels, which made things particularly difficult on people who use wheelchairs or walkers.
Only part of the building was air-conditioned, and the layout made it hard to carry on conversations.
“When you stuff people in, they make it work. They make it happen,” said Father John Pilcher, pastor of Sacred Heart, St. Bernard Parish in Wamego, St. Joseph Parish in Flush and Holy Family Parish in Alma.
But those conditions weren’t ideal, and in his years as a pastor, he has seen the difference a welcoming space can make. Opening this new hall is all about hospitality.
Building a dream
Father Pilcher knew a new hall had long topped the parish’s wish list when he arrived in this area five years ago.
Frequent changes in pastor and a regional study set back the project over the years, but parishioners kept the dream alive.
In 2011, they moved ahead, biting off pieces of the work in phases.
Building and interior committees sprung into action.
First mission: Get the structure standing.
Sabatini Architects Inc. in Lawrence designed the 8,400-square-foot building, and Sacred Heart broke ground in October 2011.
Parishioner Dan Roth served as general contractor for Phase I.
It was a big undertaking for this church with roughly 130 families. Gifts and pledges made it possible.
With the building soon standing, the parish launched the second phase to fill in everything from plumbing to electricity to furnishings.
Hundreds of local hands pitched in.
One man’s donation of electrical labor alone saved the parish $30,000. Another volunteer installed oak cabinetry for the kitchen and trimmed the doors and windows. More volunteers provided plumbing labor, exterior concrete work, painting, staining and more.
When a café closed, parishioners bought commercial equipment to furnish the parish hall’s kitchen.
Whether volunteers put in a day or a thousand hours, every contribution was appreciated, said Hund.
They set a serious deadline for themselves — to open the hall on Oct. 28 for the parish’s annual sausage dinner, a much-anticipated event celebrating the community’s German roots.
People worked around the clock the entire month before and, while there’s still some work to do, it was ready enough when the time came.
“We served 832 dinners in our new hall,” said Joe’s wife, Connie Hund.
The Hunds saw faces light up when people savored their first day in the building, which is all on one level with much-improved accessibility and enough room for everyone to move around freely.
Members of some of the same families that founded this parish more than a century ago worked on this new hall. But parishioners who are newer to the area are just as invested in its success.
“We are a vibrant parish,” said Connie Hund.
Seeing for the first time the new hall’s brick façade — which matches the nearby church — it all hit home for Joe Hund.
“Father John had said all along that we were building the hall for the glory of God,” he said. “When we were able to take this steel building and put a nice façade and entrance on it, I knew we had done our best!”
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann celebrated a Mass at the parish on Dec. 9 and blessed and dedicated the new church hall.
“You look at the cost and you say, ‘Wow, can we do this?’” said Father Pilcher. “And when it’s being accomplished, it shows you how people can work together.”
This building will serve the entire community, he said, and he hopes it will even help to welcome more people into the church.
“As important as it is for our parish, for ourselves, it’s more important that it’s for the glory of God,” said Father Pilcher.
“Without God’s grace, we couldn’t accomplish these things,” he added.