Local Parishes

St. Joseph in Olpe has new parish life center blessed

Archbishop Naumann wears a garland of flowers around his neck and a tallit on his shoulders in accord with the customs of Father Bathineni’s native India. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Joe Bollig

OLPE — There were smiles all around as St. Joseph parishioners entered their new Parish Life Center here on April 7 after Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann cut the yellow ribbon spanning the front doors.

The blessing and dedication of the new building took place after a 9 a.m. Mass celebrated by the archbishop and concelebrated by pastor Father Mohan Bathineni. Deacon Philip Nguyen was master of ceremonies.

At the end of Mass, Father Bathineni thanked God for his provident help and praised the efforts of his parishioners.

“Today, I would like to thank each and every one of you in person for your generosity, support and sacrifice,” he said.

He also thanked Archbishop Naumann for his support and that of the archdiocese, the builders of the new building and previous pastors for the leadership that made the day possible.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and Father Mohan Bathineni, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Olpe, stand outside the new St. Joseph Parish Life Center before the ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 7. The building sits on the site of the old parish school building, which was demolished to make way for the parish center. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

As the crowd made its way across the street to the new center after Mass, the bittersweet memories of the old parish school, which formerly stood on the site, made way for the new achievement.

“It seems not too long ago we were gathered here for the final time with the old school building,” said Archbishop Naumann, after a Scripture reading and before the blessing.

“You auctioned off a lot of items that helped contribute to pay for this building,” he added. “But it’s beautiful to see this resurrection at this Easter time of this new building you’ve constructed.”

Following customs from Father Bathineni’s native India, Archbishop Naumann was presented with a bouquet of flowers, a garland of flowers around his neck and a tallit on his shoulders.

The tallit, a fringed Jewish prayer shawl, featured a design of black, gold and gray lines on white cloth. There were Hebrew letters on the four corners.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann is presented with a tallit around his shoulders following Mass at St. Joseph Church in Olpe. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

The first event held in the new center was a brunch with pastries and drinks. The first layperson to enter after the ribbon-cutting was Angie Bolz, the parish secretary, who wanted to help with the brunch.

“It’s seemed years since we began planning for our parish hall, and now it’s here,” she said. “I couldn’t be more happy.”

Father Bathineni became pastor on July 1 last year and construction began soon after he arrived. The building  was completed at the end of February although new kitchen equipment was installed later.

Construction of the $2.3 million building was paid for with a loan from the archdiocese, parish savings, fundraising (including parishioner pledges) and proceeds from the auction of the old school’s century accumulation of items.

The 6,670-square-foot one-story building consists of a main hall with a table seating capacity for 96 people, five 9-10 person study rooms, two 15-30 person study rooms, a quilt/study room, restrooms, a kitchen, storage space, a parish administration office and pastor’s office. The main hall has a peaked roof with exposed wooden beams and a finished concrete floor.

A roofed pavilion attached to the back of the building is planned for a later date.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann celebrates Mass at St. Joseph Church in Olpe. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

The general contractor was BHS Construction of Manhattan, and the architect was HTK Architects of Topeka. Rex Adams, a parishioner and project executive for BHS Construction, viewed the event with satisfaction.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “It’s great seeing everyone here, seeing the dream come to fruition.”

The exterior of the square building features waist-high brick veneer and a gray, wood exterior. The most striking feature is the entrance. It includes stone salvaged from the old 1921 school, and the design echoes the profile familiar to generations of St. Joseph parishioners.

Lifelong parishioner Michelle Barnhart saw some important symbolism in the incorporation of salvaged elements in the new building, as well as the event itself.

“It’s a blessing,” said Barnhart, who attended the school as a child, taught in the school as an adult and sent her children to the school. “I was struck by a number of analogies while we were at Mass.

“This is the perfect time of year to celebrate the opening of this building because there was a lot of death and resurrection we went through in closing down a school, tearing down a building and building a new facility that would serve us in our mission moving forward.

“We had the story of doubting Thomas [in the day’s Gospel] and I’m sure we had a lot of doubters along the way. This is testimony of our trust in Jesus on Divine Mercy Sunday. Everything is as it should be.”

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About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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