HJ/EDMay 1, 2006

St. Mary's expansion vision close to reality

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

On any given day, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Waverly is host to a 300-person wedding reception, student religion class, or board meeting.

At least, that is the vision of a $3 million project to build a parishioners’ center next to the church, as early as this summer.

“The parish is growing and the area is developing,” Father Timothy Cloutier said. “It’s basically a question of survival.”

Cloutier reasons that prospective new members moving into the area, along with current members, want to see facilities that not only they can use, but their children and grandchildren can use also.

“If we don’t have (the facilities), they’ll go elsewhere,” Cloutier said.

The building project consists of adding a parishioners’ center to the north side of the church, where the parking lot is right now.

The two-story, 24,600-square-foot center would house a fellowship hall large enough to accommodate about 300 people, classrooms for religious education, administration space for daily business activities, and a youth room.

The building would be connected to the church by two links, or hallways. Parishioners could walk directly to the building from the church, without having to go outside.

The outside space between the hallways would be turned into a small courtyard for prayer and meditation.

“I can see the center being used seven days a week,” Cloutier said.

But it can’t be used until it’s built, and it can’t be built without the proper funds for the project.

So far, the church has received about $1.2 million in pledges and cash, but needs about $2 million before it can break ground.

Construction is estimated to take about 14 to 16 months to complete after groundbreaking.

Mike Gagnon, St. Mary’s trustee and lifetime member, is impressed with the generosity from the community and parishioners.

“We have had some real significant donors. A couple anonymous donors pledged $50,000 to $60,000, Citizens State Bank of Montrose and Waverly provided matching funds for $40,000, and an anonymous donor offered $60,000 matching funds,” Gagnon said.

“Considering we started this project about a year ago, the support is phenomenal,” Cloutier said.

But this isn’t the first time St. Mary’s has tried to build a center like this, which may make some potential donors reluctant to join in.

“There have been about three other attempts over the last 15 years,” Cloutier said.

This attempt started with a question from Cloutier to some of the long-term members.

“I just wanted to know if there was still any interest in doing something like this,” Cloutier said.

The whole thing took off from there, and a committee formed to work on the project.

“I am not building this, I’m letting the parishioners build it,” Cloutier said, who also feels the process of building the parishioners’ center brings members together, just as the finished building will.

After several open forums, meetings, and discussions with the parishioners and staff to determine what they would like to see, the architect was called in.

The parish and Cloutier worked closely with the architect, Kane and Associates of Rochester, to come up with the final design.

Lower level access to all parts of the building and maximizing sunlight were two deciding layout factors.

Administrative offices will face the east, classrooms will be positioned on the north side, and the fellowship hall will be in the middle, on the same level as the church sanctuary.

If the church can meet its fundraising goal, ground breaking could happen as early as July.

If need be, plans are also being considered for building in phases.

If funds are limited, phase one could go forward on schedule, rather than delaying the whole project. This would include laying the foundation, building the fellowship area, youth room, administrative offices, and some classrooms.

There would be a temporary kitchen instead of a permanent one, less classroom space, and some finishing touches left out of phase one.

“We’re still trying to figure out where we are going to end up,” Gagnon said. “It may not be exactly phase one, phase two. We’re going to have to make a decision in a month or two how far we can go with the funds we have.”

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