By Katie Hyde
Special to the Leaven
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Despite the triple digit weather that has been plaguing much of the Heartland this summer, construction workers around the archdiocese keep drilling, sawing and bulldozing away.
Many churches are under construction this summer, despite not only the heat wave, but the economic downturn of the past few years as well. Some are even breaking ground on new projects.
In fact, over the past five years, many parishes have begun projects ranging from repairing leaking windows to building million-dollar churches.
Leon Roberts, director of real estate and construction for the archdiocese, is happy with the continued progress of construction in the archdiocese, despite the sluggish economy.
“The parishes look at [building] based on what they need to do, not the economic situation,” he said. “The need is there regardless of whether the economy is up or down.”
And the need spans the archdiocese.
For example, Lumen Christi Monastery for the Little Sisters of the Lamb in Kansas City, Kan., is currently under construction, as is Villa St. Francis in Olathe. Churches under renovation range from Church of the Nativity in Leawood at the very easternmost edge of the archdiocese, to Sts. Peter and Paul in Seneca, at the western edge. St. John the Evangelist in Lawrence is in the designing process for a new school addition, and St. Stanislaus in Rossville just dedicated its new church on Aug. 4.
According to Father Arul Carasala, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul, the almost 150-year-old church building was in need of some work.
“Our ancestors built this church before they built their farms and houses,” said Father Carasala. “They built this huge church as a monument of faith. We cannot take for granted what our ancestors did for us.”
So a year ago, when Father Carasala arrived in Seneca, he continued work on the preliminary plans left him by former pastor Father Mike Koller. By next summer, the church will be new and improved, with a secure foundation, renovated exterior, new gathering space, repaired bell tower, wheelchair accessibility, energy efficient heating and cooling, new stained-glass windows, and a redesigned sanctuary.
Although economic times may be difficult, parishioners at Sts. Peter and Paul and all around the archdiocese are making sacrifices for the good of their churches.
“I am amazed that they take ownership of the parish,” said Father Carasala. “It is their parish, and they love it.”
“The economy is not good, but this is something we cannot postpone,” he added.
According to Roberts, not only are these churches, monasteries, schools, and other sites looking for spaces that can fit their populations, they are also paying particular attention to enhancing the spiritual aspect of the locations.
For example, St. Stanislaus planned a traditional church design, according to Roberts. This meant wrestling with the literally hundreds of decisions that determined the church’s layout, the ornamentation of its woodwork, the design of the tile on the floor, and the color of the paint.
Though times may be hard for parishioners, members of the archdiocese continue to generously support the parishes that support them.
“I’m pleased to see that, for the most part, parishioners want to see that their facilities are the best they can be,” Roberts said.
Father Carasala agreed, and is proud of the commitment his parishioners have made.
“People love the church and make a real commitment to the church,” Father Carasala said. “They have a strong faith, and the people have made the sacrifices before.
“They are a part of the church and part of the faith, and they’re making a commitment.”