By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
MOUNT PLEASANT — Members of St. Alphonsus Parish hope their updated gathering space will radiate a sense of warmth and welcome. After decluttering, replacing 30-year-old carpeting and repainting the walls, “It feels like a place you want to be,” said Doug Slobodnik, a parish council member.
Earlier this year, office staff started the updating process by moving unused furniture and decorations out of the way. Contractors replaced the carpeting with vinyl plank flooring. “It looks like real wood,” Slobodnik commented. Painters gave the walls a warm shade of green to match accents in the worship space.
The vinyl plank wood will make it easier for the parish to host social events, since vinyl is easier to clean than carpeting, Slobodnik said. “We want to serve doughnuts and coffee, to give people a chance to sit and talk.”
With more space to work with, office staff set up seating arrangements for people to “sit and have good fellowship,” said Office Manager Barb Brown. She believes this will be especially beneficial around Mass times and during Wednesday night faith formation classes.
Staff members converted an awkward hallway, which once connected the gathering space to the now-demolished old church, into a children’s liturgy space. “The kids always met in the library; they never had a space of their own,” Brown said. “I think this is really neat for the kids.”
Staff members blended the old and the new in redecorating the walls. Brown said everything on the walls has meaning. There is a display of small, wooden crosses crafted by Jared Smith, a parishioner with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Staff moved a wall display of the priests, religious sisters and deacons who have served the parish over the past 120 years to a more prominent place.
Father Paul Connolly blessed the space before Mass on July 31, the day before the Feast of St. Alphonsus. Parishioners proceeded into the worship space for Mass with everyone singing “All Are Welcome.” Afterward, those gathered enjoyed a picnic lunch.
Slobodnik hopes COVID-19 will remain a minimal threat so the parish can continue to use the renovated space to its full potential. Brown added, “It’s a nice place to get together.”