by Joe Bollig
SHAWNEE — The anticipation had been building for months as the renovation of St. Joseph Church here neared completion.
And when the construction fences came down, some parishioners couldn’t resist taking just a peek.
“The hardest thing to do in the last couple of weeks has been trying to keep everyone out of the church, because we still have construction going on,” said Dan Stewart, co-chairman of the building and campaign committees, in early March.
All that anticipation was satisfied when the renovated church was blessed at an 11 a.m. Mass on March 11, Laetare Sunday.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was the principal celebrant and homilist. Joining him at the altar were pastor Father Michael Hawken and associate pastor Father Daniel Stover.
Also concelebrating were Father Gerald Volz, Father Robert Pflumm, Father Dennis Wait, Father Al Rockers and Father William Porter. Deacon Tom Mulvenon assisted, and Msgr. Gary Applegate was master of ceremonies.
In his homily, Archbishop Naumann praised Father Hawken and Father Stover for their leadership, as well as the parish lay leadership and all parishioners.
“Thank you for all that you’ve done, for the sacrifices that you’ve made, for the commitments that you made to renew and renovate this church of St. Joseph,” said Archbishop Naumann. “It’s beautiful that we have this celebration as, eight days before his feast, it’s a good time to make a novena to St. Joseph and to invoke this great patron who has, as your window depicts, your church and parish community in his hands.”
The rounded church, which was a cutting-edge design when it was built in 1968, developed a lot of practical issues and normal wear and tear that needed to be addressed, said Pat McAnany, chairman and co-chairman of the building and campaign committees, respectively.
“The basic shell of the building was in pretty good shape; the roof and walls were in good shape,” said Mike Shaughnessy, architect and founding principal of SFS Architecture of Kansas City, Missouri.
The project consisted of three basic parts: the interior church renovation, the addition of a spacious 4,000-square-foot narthex (or gathering space) and additional rooms, and Parish Service Center improvements.
The Parish Service Center, built as a school in 1958, received energy-efficient windows, air conditioning and an elevator to make the building more accessible.
At the church, the small vestibule was replaced by a narthex with a peaked roof and large, windowed curtain wall looking north to a courtyard with a statue of St. Joseph holding the Child Jesus.
Other parts of the addition included an ushers room, restrooms, a gift shop, a bride’s room/cry room, a changing room and a family bathroom. Worshipers pass a large holy water/baptismal font before entering three doors into the sanctuary.
Connected to the 4,000-squre-foot narthex is a ground-level portico to improve accessibility for those using wheelchairs or children’s strollers.
Although there are some familiar elements, the interior of the church is dramatically changed from what it was before.
In addition to new electrical and concealed lighting systems, the church interior received new fire suppression and audio-visual systems.
A hearing loop was installed in the floor to aid the hard of hearing, and Masses can now be simulcast to the narthex and live-streamed to the homebound. Handicapped accessibility was improved throughout the church.
Altar furnishings were also replaced, and much of the sanctuary was redone, including the installation of a new, elevated marble ambo.
A new choir area was made, and it has a new organ and piano. There are also new, specially designed curved pews and new kneelers to accommodate about 900 worshipers.
The original abstract stained-glass windows were replaced by 15 stained- glass windows — seven reflecting the life of St. Joseph; eight, the ministry of Christ. The three devotional areas along the curved back wall were also improved.
The need for renewal and improvements was widely recognized by the pastor and parishioners, so Father Hawken began to recruit committee members and choose an architect in 2015. The renovation and addition would mark the 150th anniversary of the parish in 2018, and the 50th anniversary of the church in 2019.
The first capital campaign presentation to parishioners was made on Sept. 16, 2016. It was called “Journey of Grace — 150.” Within five months, the parishioners almost reached the campaign goal of $6 million.
In closing comments before the final blessing at the Mass, Father Hawken praised and thanked all those who made the renovation possible, including parish leadership, the architect, general contractor, subcontractors and the parishioners — including some who worked for the subcontractors.
One of those subcontractors was McAnany Construction, Inc., of Shawnee. The McAnany family has been part of the parish since its founding. The gifts at the Mass were brought up by representatives of three generations of McAnanys: Katie McAnany, Jack McAnany, Ryan McAnany, Betty McAnany and Pat McAnany.
“Our final thanks goes to our parishioners,” said Father Hawken. “It was like light one candle and pass the torch, when we put out the word we were going to do this.”
“You got onboard, each in your own way, with what you were able to do and helped us accomplish this,” he continued. “As the archbishop said in his homily, it just speaks of your love for the Lord and the church.
“We know there is no one like the St. Joseph community. If we want to get something done, we get it done. And I appreciate the way you stepped forward and made this project possible.”
The architectural firm was SFS Architects, with Shaughnessy as lead architect. The general contractor was Excel Constructors of Overland Park. Among their representatives were owner Michael Johnson and senior project manager Christopher Bradley, who is a parishioner.
A reception was held in the parish hall after the Mass.