Historic parish breaks ground on hall

Father John Pilcher, pastor, speaks briefly at the Nov. 5 groundbreaking ceremony for Mater Dei Parish’s new hall to be constructed near Holy Name Church, while Kayla Terrill, left, and Miranda Hillebert, right, hold a rendering of the new facility. Mark Burenheide, left, also spoke of the importance of providing for future generations. The groundbreaking marked the first in a three-phase $2.1 million fundraising effort. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

by Marc and Julie Anderson
mjanderson@theleaven.org

TOPEKA — It seems it’s that time of year again.

Pick up any parish bulletin about this time and it probably contains a listing for a fall festival or parish bazaar. If not at the parish itself, the bulletin might list similar events scheduled in the region.

Usually replete with a turkey dinner, silent auction, baked goods and carnival games, one Topeka parish’s usual annual autumn event added a unique twist this year. On Nov. 5, after the 10:30 a.m. Mass, Mater Dei Parish broke ground on a parish hall near its church.

“It’s an exciting time,” said pastor Father John Pilcher.

Near the end of Mass, Father Pilcher announced the parish had already passed what it termed its “celebration goal” of $700,000 and was up to $947,000 at that point.

“We’re well on our way, and it’s because of your generosity,” Father Pilcher said.

The celebration goal was the first of three set for the Sowing Seeds of Faith capital campaign, a $2.1 million fundraising effort conducted by the parish.

After Mass, Father Pilcher was joined by hundreds of parishioners who processed from Holy Name Church to a site just west of the church. Among them was parishioner Mark Burenheide, who spoke briefly about the importance of the campaign, while Mater Dei Grade School students Kayla Terrill and Miranda Hillebert held an architectural rendering of the parish hall.

Father Pilcher then led those gathered in the Sowing Seeds of Faith campaign prayer, after which he blessed the site with holy water.

Then, Father Pilcher was joined by representatives of the parish and finance councils, as well as capital campaign leaders and building committee members. Other honored guests — including Deacon Chris Seago, Gov. Sam Brownback, and City Councilwoman Karen Hiller — were invited to pick up shovels and don hard hats as they turned the first ceremonial shovelfuls of dirt.

Formed in 2006 with the consolidation of Assumption Parish and Holy Name Parish, Mater Dei Parish maintains two churches, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Located just across the street from the Kansas State Capitol, Assumption Church is considered the mother church of the city, as the parish was formed in the late 1860s with the cornerstone for the current church laid in the early 1920s. Holy Name Church was built in the early 1930s.

As listed on campaign materials, each goal coincides with a different phase of the campaign. For example, the first phase includes the construction of a new parish hall and the removal of Assumption Church’s bell towers for repair.

The second goal is known as the challenge goal and is set at $1.4 million. Reaching that goal will allow the parish to complete “necessary tuckpointing” on both churches. According to campaign materials, because both parishes are on the National Register of Historic Places, the capital needs projects are eligible to receive tax credits up to 25 percent of the project.

The final phase of the project focuses on long-term goals and will begin when the parish reaches the $2.1 million mark. According to campaign materials, this phase will allow the bell towers to be replaced and will establish an endowment to “ensure the long-term viability of Assumption Church and Mater Dei Parish.”

According to Father Pilcher, it’s the first time he has heard of the archdiocese allowing a parish to go beyond the archdiocesan community to establish an endowment.

In doing so, it demonstrates a commitment to the parish and its importance to not only the Catholics of Topeka, but also to the entire community, he said.

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