by Joe Bollig
SENECA — Traditionally, the venerable hymn proclaims: “The church’s one foundation / Is Jesus Christ her Lord.”
But when Father Arul Carasala became pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Seneca, the hymn could have been changed to: “The church’s one foundation / Is getting worse and frail.”
Father Michael Koller, the previous pastor, built a new school and renovated the old school property, but was reassigned before he could proceed to the church.
“When I came to the church last July, I looked at the church and its history, and found that nothing had been done [in terms of major repair] since 1981,” said Father Carasala.
There were problems with the ceiling, the foundation, the bell tower, the stained-glass windows and more. And, of course, the church, built in 1895, was not handicapped accessible.
It was time for a major makeover and the construction of a new narthex, or “gathering space.”
A major step forward was taken on Aug. 19, when Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann went to Sts. Peter and Paul. He presided at a Mass and also a blessing and groundbreaking of the church’s new narthex.
“Our prayer today reminds us that whenever we build anything in the church, we really build it for the Lord, and the foundation of all that we do is really our faith in him,” said the archbishop.
“This space will be very important because it will allow a space for you be able to gather, to welcome others, to communicate, and — because of that — to keep the sanctuary a place of prayer.”
The $2.3 million church addition and renovation project has two phases. The first phase began three months ago and consists of foundation work, repair of the bell tower and tuck-pointing of the red brick church.
The second phase will include construction of the narthex, repairing the stained-glass windows, installation of a new sound system, painting, and redecorating the sanctuary.
The 1,470-square-foot narthex, to be built onto the old entrance on the south side of the church, will have steps and ramps, a handicapped-accessible door, and a basement. The narthex will have a vestry and handicapped access to the confessionals and bathrooms.
Construction of the narthex will begin after Labor Day. The church will be closed after Jan. 1, 2013, and worship will take place in the school for the next six months.
“So, according to our timeline as we stand, we hope to finish everything by next summer,” said Father Carasala.