by Kara Hansen
OVERLAND PARK — Holy Spirit Parish here got its Christmas gift a little early.
It came in the form of a newly renovated church, officially rededicated Dec. 18.
“We moved out of our church in April and had Mass in the school gym until now, which served our needs well enough,” explained Father Harry Schneider, pastor of Holy Spirit.
“But it’s certainly good to be back home,” he added.
The original church space was dedicated in 1984, with the idea that it would someday be converted into a gymnasium for the adjoining parish school. The original plan was for a new church to be built in a separate space on the church property.
As additions were made to the parish, a new pastoral plan in 1997 determined the need for a new gym. At the same time, parishioners decided that, instead of building a new worship space, they would renovate the existing space. In the process they would not only enhance the worship space, but update and repair things that needed attention as well.
“The space had served our needs well, but it was not designed to be a permanent church. At the same time, many things — such as the roof, sound system, and plumbing — had really started to deteriorate after 24 years,” said Father Schneider. “We took advantage of the opportunity to take care of it all at once.”
The renovation expanded the church to include 50 additional seats, and a new gathering space and bells were added. Previously, the church had been wired for a set of bells, but none had ever been installed. The church now boasts a permanent baptismal font and choir space, neither of which were features of the original space, as well as a new organ and piano.
Original artwork is featured around the church, complete with devotional spaces honoring St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Peter, St. Anne, and St. Peregrine of Laziosi.
Father Schneider said St. Peregrine, who is the patron saint of those afflicted with cancer, is an unusual saint to find in the devotional area of most churches. But Holy Spirit has a first-class relic of the saint, he said, and he is considering the possibility of having a regular Mass of healing at the parish.
Additionally, each of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is engraved above the entrance doors to the church. Finally, the new crucifix is an important addition to parishioners, as their previous church space did not have one.
“The crucifix is pretty close to life-size. It is Jesus in his last moments hanging on the cross, as he is looking to heaven and handing over his spirit,” said Father Schneider. “It’s very moving.”
Fundraising for the church renovation began three years ago, but many parishioners have been waiting for a permanent church for many years.
“It was a good space for many years, but things had been made to be moved around and changed since it wasn’t a permanent space,” said Father Schneider. “I think this really completes the vision of the parish. What we keep hearing from parishioners is the new church exceeds their expectations.”
Father Schneider said he thought the new space lent itself to a deeper sense of community among parishioners as well.
“The first Mass we had the weekend after the dedication, it was wonderful to see people standing around in the new gathering space talking afterwards,” he said.
“I think it will build an even greater sense of community in our parish,” he concluded.