by Marc and Julie Anderson
Special to The Leaven
TOPEKA — For the past 10 years, 26-year-old Carrie Greenwood, a member of St. Matthew Parish in southeast Topeka, has been unable to participate in parish events as fully as she would have liked.
That all changed Sept. 13, when the parish blessed and dedicated its new facilities. Finally, Greenwood could enjoy the after-services fellowship like the other parishioners.
Greenwood is a member of the choir and teaches religious education at the parish. But she’s used a wheelchair for her entire life.
That means that any building she enters must be wheelchair-accessible in some way or another. And while technically the former parish hall had a lift on its stairs, it was not that easy to use.
When she was little, Greenwood’s father, Galen, used to carry her downstairs to the parish hall so she could participate in parish events. As Greenwood grew, and that became impractical, it hurt her father deeply that his daughter could not participate in some parish events.
But the family never gave up on the dream that one day the parish would have facilities that would be accessible to not only Greenwood, but any parishioner who could not manage the steps for any reason.
That dream finally became a reality when, on Sept. 13, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann blessed and dedicated the new parish hall and Early Learning Center. The ceremony also included a blessing for a new grand entry that connects the church, parish hall, Early Learning Center, gymnasium and school.
The $2.5 million, 20,000-sq.-ft. project, called “Building God’s Kingdom Together,” was informally launched in March 2007 when the parish expressed its wish for a new parish hall and grand entry to connect the church and school as well as the new parish hall.
Ground was broken for the new facilities on Sept. 28, 2008, with a capital campaign commitment weekend held Dec. 8-9 of that year. A three-year period to collect the more than $2.3 million committed in pledges began January 2008 and will end December 2010.
“Not only does the new parish hall open doors for me, but it also opens doors in the future for others,” Greenwood said.
“When the project was first getting started, [pastor] Father Jerry [Volz] had me speak to the congregation about the importance of the accessibility from my perspective. . . . This has been a great opportunity for all of us to see that we can come together as a parish community and, with God’s help, accomplish a large goal.”
Parishioner Kathy Rosetta, who has been a member of the parish since it was formed in 1955, agreed.
“I am very excited about the new parish hall and all the new facilities,” she said. “I think the parish hall, in particular, is going to have a unifying force within the community, as more people will be able to utilize the space.”
In his remarks, the archbishop congratulated the parish on a job well done and thanked Father Volz and all the numerous people who gave their time, talent, treasure and prayers to see the project to its completion.
“I want to congratulate all of you — this parish community — on what you’ve accomplished,” the archbishop said. “Thank you for your love of the Lord and your love for the church.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, the archbishop expressed his hopes and prayers for the future use of all the facilities.
“It’s a building that is dedicated to God’s glory. . . . Everything is built upon his Son, and he is the cornerstone of this effort,” the archbishop said.
Likewise, he told the parishioners, the building should remind them that they are the living stones of the church anchored by Jesus Christ. Everything that happens in this structure, the archbishop concluded, should be done to “glorify and magnify the Lord.”