by Marc and Julie Anderson
Special to The Leaven
WAVERLY — There wasn’t a squirrel in sight on Oct. 3 when Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann blessed and dedicated the new parish hall at St. Joseph Parish here.
And that was a pretty good thing, too, because you just know there’s going to be trouble when the squirrels muscle their way in, as they did in Waverly two years ago.
The then-existing hall, a 100-year-old former one-room schoolhouse, had been moved to the parish site in 1955 from eight miles outside of town. Parishioners added a kitchen and the structure served them well for more than 50 years.
By 2007, however, the building had deteriorated badly. The last straw came when a squirrel infestation threatened major damage. Clearly, something had to be done.
That May, the parish sought permission from the archdiocese to build a new parish hall. The archdiocese gave them the green light with one proviso: Raise sufficient funds. The cost: $90,000.
Some had their doubts.
“I was being a doubting Thomas,” said Lisa Litch, president of the parish council, in her remarks at the ceremony. “[This project] has renewed my faith in God.”
She always knew the parish was a close-knit community, Litch said, but she didn’t truly understand the meaning of the phrase until this project was launched.
Help for the project came from across the town of Waverly (population 700). Donations of money came from not only St. Joseph parishioners, but also from non-Catholics. Waverly residents also contributed time and labor to the construction of the 1,728-square-foot facility.
In his remarks, Archbishop Naumann praised the parishioners for their hard work and dedication to the life of their faith community. He also discussed the importance of blessing the facility.
“Whenever we build a building as a parish community, we always bless it,” he said.
The reason, he continued, is because the building will contain the presence of the people of God, who will gather to celebrate many moments in the life of the community. In doing so, the gathering place will be used to strengthen the bonds of faith and love that unite the parish.
The archbishop’s sentiments were echoed by the pastor, Father Marianand Mendem.
“Your great commitment, your love, your concern, is the cause of all this,” said Father Mendem, also pastor of St. Patrick in Emerald, St. Francis Xavier in Burlington, and St. Teresa in Westphalia.
“This is a very loving parish,” said Julia Plank, 89, the first parishioner to enter the new hall.
Although she couldn’t help build it, she watched every step of the construction.
“You cannot run a parish without a fellowship hall,” she said.