By Celine Klosterman
RIVERSIDE — St. Mary Parish is a step closer to having a new facility for its children’s education.
The parish broke ground June 20 for a 9,800-square-foot $1.3 million building that will hold 12 classrooms, offices and space for retreats, meetings and social outreach programs. Construction on the two-level facility will begin in early July and is expected to take about nine months.
“The work we are beginning today should enliven our faith and make us grateful,” Father Rich Adam, pastor, said at the groundbreaking. “We know the familiar words of the psalm: ‘If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor.’ Wherever we look to the interests of our neighbor or community and serve them, we are, in a sense, God’s own co-workers.”
St. Mary’s 330 families have pledged more than $1 million in their $2 million, five-year campaign. The drive aims to raise funds for the new hall, renovation of the parish’s existing hall, demolition of a 120-year-old former convent that has long housed religious education classes, and the creation of a new parking lot.
Renovation will begin soon after the new building is constructed, Fr. Adam said. Plans call for replacing windows and removing partitions from the existing hall to create a large gathering space that can serve as a community center.
McCreedy-Ruth Construction in Iowa City is serving as contractor for the new building.
The construction and renovation are necessary because existing buildings aren’t meeting the parish’s needs, said Jim Rose, member of St. Mary’s building committee and parish council. The former convent has a poor foundation, plumbing issues and a hole in the roof; both the convent and existing hall have heating and cooling problems, and the hall is plagued by electrical issues. Current classrooms are too few and too small, parish council president Dee Simon said at a campaign kick-off in September.
The Davenport Diocese considered St. Mary’s need great enough that it allowed the parish to launch a campaign — even as most parishes were asked to hold off on running a capital campaign until the diocese finishes actively fundraising for its capital campaign.
Rose sees the new hall’s purpose as vital. “Educating children,” he said, “is the foundation of our parish.”