Beginning a conversation

Our Holy Spirit neighborhood has become an exciting place over the summer. I marvel at the complexity of the university construction project. There is so much activity, dozens of people, gigantic machinery, pounding, roaring, clanging and, of course, dust. How does anyone keep it all straight!

Just a block away, the hospital has its own project under way, and another is in the offing. Major improvements also are being completed at the residence hall adjacent to the Newman Center.

New buildings and improvements are a prominent indication of institutions responding to imminent needs and long-term possibilities. Of course that goes for parishes as well. It’s not a matter of trying to keep up with our neighbors, but rather taking a hard look at our existing facilities and considering what best serves a new parish in the 21st century?
That challenging question was first considered by a committee during the unification process, and is being pursued now by the Pastoral Council.

At a meeting in late spring the Pastoral Council identified several “big-picture” improvements that might be part of a future parish building project. Those very preliminary ideas will be submitted to several architectural/design firms, which will provide more specific proposals that can be submitted to the Council and ultimately to parishioners for review and recommendations.

In other words: the parish is in the very first stages of a potential improvement project. Many ideas have been suggested, but nothing has been determined; we are far from any final resolution. Many questions, cost foremost among them, need to be asked and answered before anything concrete is initiated.

What the Unification Facilities Committee recommended when it completed its work a year ago, and what the Council has since endorsed, are these general components of a possible improvement project:
– A gathering space for activities before and after Mass, for parents with small children during Mass and for funeral visitation. Such a space, states the committee’s final report, “is essential for the growth and vitality of the faith community.” A more convenient drop-off and pick-up area for worshipers also was recommended.
– A parish center, most likely connected to the church, that would house more accessible parish offices, while also allowing the pastor and staff to work out of one office setting. Currently staff is divided between the rectory and Newman Center. This facility could also feature smaller meeting and program spaces. With construction of the new science building, the potential benefit has been observed in selling the Newman Center and moving campus ministry programming to a new, expanded facility. Again, that’s only an observation.
– Depending on property needed for a building project, land north of the church could be developed for additional parking.

Four or five firms are being asked to submit proposals for reviewing existing facilities, reviewing preliminary project components identified by the Pastoral Council, and making initial proposals for a possible building project. Essential to whatever happens is communication with parishioners as to what is being considered, why it’s regarded as important, and, ultimately, whether or not it is feasible to pursue. We’ll keep you posted. TL

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