For parishioners at St. Mary Catholic Church in Newton, change is coming to their place of worship, with a massive transformation nearing completion.
At the beginning of June, the St. Mary parish took on a major renovation project, the majority of which is set to be finished by the coming weekend. For the past month, numerous local contractors from around Newton have been consigned to reroof the church (replacing four layers of shingles), re-plaster the walls, reseal the bricks, replace lighting fixtures and implement a new paint scheme (including the refurbishing of many of the church statues).
In short, it was a project that needed to be done, as many structural issues were showing and many of the items focused on in the project were overdue.
"This was a priority because the walls were cracking, the ceiling was leaking (and there was) a lot of water damage," said Father Nicholas Voelker, "it hadn't been touched since 1991."
"We had cracks in the walls; it had been 25 years since the last renovation," added pastoral assistant Rob Tierney. "It was needed. That's the bottom line."
Some stages of the project were a priority due to timing, as Tierney noted the average lifespan for brick sealant was 10 years, while the roof hadn't been addressed in nearly 50 years (with hail damage helping facilitate that work). Modernizing the church was a theme throughout, though, especially in regards to the aesthetics like the statues and the new paint scheme — which was designed to mirror the diocesan cathedral, the Wichita Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Given that Our Lady of Guadalupe made some major changes earlier this year, Voelker admitted there was a concerted effort to wait on renovations at St. Mary until the summer, so as not to tie up both Catholic churches in Newton at the same time.
During construction at St. Mary, both daily and weekend masses were held in the adjacent school building. Parishioners have waited patiently during that time as the renovations progressed smoothly, according to Voelker, who was also grateful for the efforts that went into the project.
"I give thanks to God for the generosity of parishioners and the hard work of all the workers," Voelker said.
Needed as the work was, Voelker and Tierney said there was a dual purpose behind the renovations that also tied into the faith and glorifying God. Voelker stated that Psalm 84 was kept in mind throughout the project: "How lovely your dwelling , O Lord of Hosts!"
Renovations, in Voelker's eyes, will not only improve the church, but it will help strengthen the faith of the parishioners and illustrate that commitment to all who visit St. Mary, according to Tierney.
"It's a big hospitality thing. It sends a message that we're upkeeping our facilities and that we want it to be more welcoming for anybody to come in the church," Tierney said, "and just a testimony to giving God our best and doing the best that we can for his house and our place of worship."
Though Tierney noted there will be more improvements to come, the majority of current renovations are expected to be complete by this weekend, with both he and Voelker excited to see the reaction from the parishioners to all the changes.