Several years ago our Parish Finance Committee recommended that we establish a capital campaign to try to replenish our Building Fund that was slowly being depleted by capital expenditures. We were just coming off one huge project, which was the masonry repairs to the church and the replacement of our gutters, cornices and downspouts, which had to be performed quickly lest there be major leaks in the interior of the church. A committee was formed to consider a capital campaign. Their conclusion was that since we were not facing a financial crisis, we should pursue a low key effort to increase the level of giving to what we would now call our Restoration Fund. This effort has been able to meet our immediate needs, and next week you will receive a parish financial report that will include your “brown envelope” donations for the past fiscal year and total expended from it. I am most grateful.
A second recommendation that came from our Finance Committee was that we engage a part-time Facilities Manager to oversee our maintenance and restoration projects and to handle the day to day details of working with vendors and contractors. As many of you know, here at Assumption we have a tiny full-time staff compared to many parishes. While our retired priests Fr. Doyle and Fr. Brown (who will soon be 91) and our internationally famous scholar, Fr. Pawlikowski, continue to assist with Masses and other ministries as time and health permit, there is only one priest/pastoral minister actually assigned to our growing parish. We have a secretary/bookkeeper, Wanda West, and a cook/maintenance man, Pierre Threat. Granted the number of activities and ministries at Assumption is small compared to some parishes; however, our Ministry Fair in the spring showed just how many ministries we now have and how much the level of parish activity has increased in the last ten years. So, about a year ago we engaged parishioner Jacqueline Golab to be our Facilities Manager.
Shortly after the Italian Dinner last November, we began the restoration of our Parish Hall and Parish Hall kitchen, a project that took more than three months. When the old drop-ceiling from the 1960’s was removed, we discovered that it was hiding several things that were not only code deficient but a little scary. There were actual holes in the ceiling (bare lathes) where plaster had once been. There was some old and frayed wiring as well as some genuine antique knob and tube wiring that became technologically obsolete, according to my research, in 1909. Since electricity first reached Assumption in 1900, we can assume that some of this original wiring was still carrying current! So, over this past year, we have gradually been replacing all of this ancient wiring and other out of date cloth wiring from the mid twentieth century. This includes the rewiring of the light fixtures in church.
One issue that we told you about when we began To Teach Who Christ Is was the need to repair or restore the vent sections of our stained glass windows. Continued expansion and contraction of the metal frames with changing temperatures through the decades has led to our present situation where none of the windows actually close properly. During the height of the polar vortex last winter, this produced quite a draft on those sitting in the side pews. After considering several possible solutions, we have contracted with the Deprato Rigali Studios (which performed some exterior maintenance on these windows six years ago) to repair the frames and simply seal them shut. Rigali will also clean and repair the horizontal support bars on the interior of the windows, where we have had several incidents of grout coming loose and falling on the pews. This project, by the way, is being underwritten by a generous parish family.
Taking care of buildings does not do anything directly to build the Kingdom of God, but indirectly I believe it does. We know that God is everywhere, but we are more likely to be attentive to God in a sacred place, a church like Assumption that has been prayed in by so many generations, a church whose art and architecture invite us to think of eternal truths. We gather here to remember who we are as children of God, so that we can live that truth when we leave here.