Decatur parish digs deep for new parish hall
DECATUR — St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church is adding on — still. The process, that started as an idea in 2003, has become more than a reality for the parish now nearly a decade later.
In 2004, as part of the “Legacy of Faith” capital campaign to raise money for the entire Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, St. Mary’s asked the congregation to donate a little more than usual for the cause in an attempt to raise enough money to start a building project. The goals of the projects: a new gymnasium and a parish hall.
The gymnasium would be an undertaking before the hall simply because it was “easier to take on a stand-alone building,” according to Tony Isch, who has served on St. Mary’s finance committee for 20 years and has been the expansion’s chairman since 2009.
Other members on the committee include Terry Baker, Tim Barkey, Stephanie Brite, Judy Converset, Al Downing, Suzan Downing, Bill Fullenkamp, St. Joseph School Principal Karla Hormann, Ann Isch, Gwen Mies, Wayne Porter, athletic director Barney Schultz, and the current pastor at St. Mary’s, Father David Voors.
Former members of the committee include Ralph Biggs, Art Ehinger, Tom Katen, Les Shultz and Sue Zurcher. St. Mary’s development directors previously involved in the long-range planning and Building on our Heritage capital campaign were Julie Coleman and Kris Pogue.
Moake Park Group of Fort Wayne is the architect for the parish hall project and Decatur resident Dion Jordan is representing them as the construction administrator.
For the building projects, the church made it a priority to hire parishioners to complete the process. Darling Construction, owned by St. Mary’s parishioners Tom and Ron Darling, is the general contractor for the parish hall project. Subcontracting companies that are owned by parishioners include Rorick Electric Heating and Air, Baker and Sons Plumbing and Alberding Woodworking.
These companies earned the pride of building on to their church and in return, the church enjoyed using the opportunity to give back to those parishioners who attend the church.
For those students, teachers, parishioners or even fans from other schools whose athletic programs took them to St. Joseph School for sports, the necessity for a new gym facility was obvious.
The old gym can still be found in the basement of the school or “the dungeon” as the students attending St. Joseph School affectionately call it. The floor is a rubbery material that seems better suited as a wrestling mat, the lighting is dim and at times headache inducing when they flicker, and the court’s boundaries come dangerously close to either a wall or the bleachers depending on which side of the floor one is seated.
Father Phil DeVolder, who was pastor at St. Mary when the 2004 Legacy of Faith concluded, gave his blessing to start the building process when the total amount from the donations was enough. After a certain amount of the church donations went to the diocese as a group, the amount of money made after that mark was pooled straight towards the rebuilding process.
By the time the new school year began in fall of 2009, the gym, which can hold up to 300 people, was ready for use by St. Joseph’s athletic programs as well as some gym activities for students taking physical education.
The next part of the process was the hall in which the interior process has begun and is expected to be completed and fully functional by the end of June.
The new hall will provide handicap-accessible restrooms on the first floor level of the church and the expanded parish hall will allow for a large “gathering space” for those parishioners who socialize before and after Mass. The hall will also provide a place for a “meeting room” which St. Mary’s church-goers can use for Baptisms, funeral dinners or small wedding receptions.
Father Dave Voors, current pastor at St. Mary’s, stated that the space be free of charge for those who attend St. Mary’s regularly.
The new space will become home to a few services that were sorely in need of a designated place at St. Mary’s such as a SCRIP office, a new bookstore, a chapel area, which will be open 24/7, and a kitchen.
The kitchen will have two ovens with overhead microwaves, three sinks, a dishwasher, large refrigerator, and many cabinets for storage and will be used to prepare meals for funeral dinners, receptions and the annual St. Mary’s Fall Fest.
Future plans for St. Mary’s building are in the works with the success of the new gym and parish hall. The contents of these plans have not been revealed but show that the church and its family continue to grow along side St. Joseph School.