My Brothers and Sisters in Christ-
In the mid-1980’s a Findings Committee was formed by the then-Pastor, Fr Robert Uhrlage to consider the needs of the Parish and what needed to be done to be prepared for the future of this vibrant Parish. From that Findings Committee, Fr Uhrlage called a Parish meeting, at which he announced the results. Fr Uhrlage stated that the Findings Committee had three recommendations for the Parish: 1. A Parish Hall should be constructed to meet current and futures needs of the community. 2. A new St Cecilia Church building was needed as the current church was rapidly being overgrown. And 3. The school was in need of additional space due to growth. As we all know, from that meeting these needs have been realized. Years later, Fr Uhrlage shared with me that he had been assigned to our Parish with the 3 goals – of building a new Church, Hall and School Gymnasium. He jokingly told me the gym is my job. As our Parish continues to grow and our school proves its needs for growth, I call today’s meeting to discuss a new endeavor which seems to be incumbent upon us to consider. This endeavor should be something that can meet the needs of all Parishioners – from the youth to our seniors – for use by both Parishioners and our school.
On the 31st of January, 2012, I penned a letter inviting several members of our Parish community to become part of a fact-finding or Findings Committee, to visit and study various educational institutions – both Catholic, non-Catholic and public – as well as Parish community centers, to bring about some ideas of what could possibly be the basis for a Parish Center here at St Cecilia’s. In choosing these individuals, I sought to ensure that every Parish organization was represented so as to have a voice for that group. Members of that committee include Mr Jeremy Deters (chair) – Finance Council, Miss Margaret Hoffman – Altar Society and Bereavement Committee, Mr Gerry Bergman – Holy Name Society and Finance Council, Mr Jim Hellmann – Maintenance Committee and Cemetery Committee, Mr Brad Saalfeld – School Parent and Engineer, Mr Tom Bach, Parish Facility Maintenance Man and Maintenance Committee, Mrs Michelle Scott – School Parent and former School Board Member, Mr Brad Schultz – Sports Committee, Knights of Columbus and School Board Member, Mr Rob Hon – Maintenance Committee and our Principal, Mrs Kendra McGuire, as well as myself. Over the course of many months, many facilities throughout the area were visited. Findings Committee members took notes, discussed and made recommendations as to what they saw as being feasible toward an eventual center for our Parish. From these recommendations, the ideas were streamlined into what would be envisioned as a multipurpose building, located at the back of our school, which would be built to encompass the needs of our current parishioners and the school, as well as provide for future growth of the school. Realizing the fact that our Parish grounds are land-locked and that almost every area is being utilized for different capacities, as well as the fact that the potential for future building is limited to the space behind the school facing Locust Lane, this building would potentially encompass tri levels, with a gymnasium/multipurpose area with stage, a media center, exercise and youth space, restrooms, an elevator, as well as a lower level which would, in time, be developed as the need arises, in hand with additional parking. Asking a local architect for some basic ideas, drawings were made which encompass the potential of what the Findings Committee formulated. Obviously, the drawings are but conceptual and not the actual formal designs; however, this does provide us with a general idea of what may be built. (These drawings are on display in the Narthex.).
In January of this year, 101 parishioners were contacted, asking them to consent to be interviewed as part of a Feasibility Study to determine their thoughts of building a center and the feasibility of our Parish being able to financially undertake a project of this scope. Intentionally, a broad swath of parishioners were, thus enabling us to hear the thoughts of not only individuals who are in favor of the project, but those who were somewhat disinterested, to those who were vehemently opposed. The Feasibility Study was completed by WRG Associates of Covington, a consulting firm which specializes in this arena. At the end of this study, the findings were presented to myself and some members of the Findings Committee, as well as sent to Bishop Foys for his perusal. The conclusion of the Feasibility Study provided the Parish with a very positive recommendation of our ability to complete the project; despite some objections, the response was overwhelmingly in favor of building a new facility.
In May of this year, a preliminary meeting was held with Bishop Foys wherein the Feasibility study was discussed and he took the results under consideration and review. Two weeks ago I was informed by the Bishop that, after considerable prayer and meeting with his consulters, he was in favor of our project. With that in mind, he has granted St Cecilia Parish the next step in the building process - that of beginning consultations with an architectural firm and beginning fundraising for our future building. Bishop Foys, in conjunction with the advice of the Vicar General, Diocesan Finance Director, the Diocesan Superintendent of Schools and the Diocesan Director of Building and Grounds, states that he feels that this project could be completed at the project sum of 3 million dollars, with 50% of the funds needing to be on hand and 50% pledged prior to beginning construction. I announce this decision by the Bishop with both great joy as well as fear and trepidation.
I realize that there are those within the Parish who are against this project for a variety of reasons. Many see the need to improve the Undercroft, complete the kitchen, provide an elevator between floors of the Church. I agree that all of these needs must be done in time. I also see the fact that once our children are no longer using the undercroft as a gym, we will be able to proceed with making changes there. We will be able to bring in a professional to help lay out the kitchen so it will be efficient. Having students out of the hall will enable us to have the hall set up as it is meant to be, opening up the table and chair storage area to be a place where all the organizational cabinets which currently clutter up the kitchen can be stored. To me it’s an obvious domino effect which can be corrected with the gym being built. In improving the Undercroft would come a good time as well to install an elevator between the floors of the church.
Other items including a bell tower, balcony in the church, and a chapel for daily Mass and Adoration are issues for some as well. I see these as being important and viable projects which can be completed in time, as the size of the Parish increases and the need arises for the Parish.
When I first arrived at St Cecilia’s, I realized that we were under a heavy weight of debt as a result of the building of the new Church. For various reasons, a significant number of parishioners had left the Parish and, in doing so, had not fulfilled their promised pledges to the Church building funds. Costs overrides and expenses associated with the completion of the interior of the Church exasperated the debt. Sadly, when the former parishioners failed to uphold their commitments, the Parish was saddled with paying off that debt. As Pastor, I took over at a time when we were at about $1 million in debt. In less than seven years, through second collections, fund raisers and partial funds from our festivals, as a Parish we were able to pay off that debt and have begun to accumulate a good amount in our building fund.
I firmly believe that we have the ability to go forward with this building project. We are at a crossroads in growth and meeting the needs for current as well as future parishioners. The costs connected with building are only going to rise as time clicks by.
When I first came to St Cecilia’s I saw the need for improvements in many areas. As a result, we have worked together as a Parish in making necessary changes –establishing a parking lot for our handicapped and senior citizens was a priority for me. It required tearing down the old church, which we did once everyone was able to visit the old structure and see the liability it had become. We built a beautiful and often used stage as a venue to Parish Parties in the Lot and the Festival, as well as other uses throughout the year. We’ve made a beautiful Chapel for our Blessed Mother here in the church where furniture was once stored, as well as repairing our church roof and the lighting system. We’ve done extensive work in our cemetery, beautifying it by tearing out tree lines and old growth, building stone pillars and iron fencing. We’ve landscaped the premises making our Parish a very inviting place to gather. We’ve made considerable improvements to our school – from wiring it, running internet throughout, installing smart boards and other much-needed educational aids– to renovating the entrance area and school office, as well as replacing the windows in the north facing classrooms. There are other things which have been done. I list these because I feel that you have trusted me in these endeavors.
As I announce that we are on the cusp of something new and great for the Parish, I am not here to build a taj mahal or fancy building or shrine for myself. It’s not about me. I believe that we are facing what is a need that has been discussed for decades but not tackled until now. At that meeting held years ago by Fr Uhrlage, people asked for a gym then, well it’s incumbent upon us now. I ask for your support in this endeavor as we continue to work together for the Good of our Parish, the future of our Parish. I realize that there are questions. Hopefully I have answered many; however if you still have one, you will find in the Narthex on the tables, question forms which I ask you to complete. I will seek to provide plausible answers to your questions. This will enable me to answer them thoughtfully.
As we have been hearing in our Sunday readings in recent weeks, everything that we have ultimately belongs to the Lord. He calls upon us to be generous and, as we give, He will return to us two fold or more. Let us entrust this endeavor to the Lord, seeking His guidance in all of our decision making. As well as to our Patron, St Cecilia, that she will intercede on our behalf at this time and in the days to come.
God bless you my Brothers and Sisters. Thank you for your attention and your support as I seek to continue leading our Parish in following the Lord and serving one another.
The Lord bless you and keep you,
Father Mario Joseph Tizziani