Saturday, June 1, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, June 2

Today is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. Happy Feast Day!

Since I came to St. Austin nearly three years ago I have often wondered what could be done to clean and beautify the exterior of the church and rectory, specifically to the dark, mottled patches on the exterior limestone. And many others have asked about or commented on the gray and unappealing nature of the church. In addition, you can see several places where chunks of stone have broken loose and fallen to the ground. Occasionally you can find such pieces of the exterior laying on the ground around the base of the church.

There was concern that attempts to clean the exterior of the church might exacerbate the problem of pieces falling onto the ground and that our new state may be worse than the first.

St. Austin Catholic Church
Photographed by Jean-Gil Gutierrez
After I had written in this column (March 03, 2013) about my desire to make the church more noticeable and attractive at Christmas with some kind of holiday light display, I discussed this idea with some of our parishioners. Eventually the perennial topic of the less-than-attractive-appearance of the exterior came up. One of our parishioners knew an architect who is a specialist in stone and masonry, and he asked her to come and take a look at the church.

She did. And she did not like what she saw. There is indeed a problem with the grey and black discoloration on the church exterior, which she identified as “biological growth”  (consultant speak for mold and mildew). That is why it is worse on the North and East faces of the church than on the South and West sides, which receive more sun and dry out better. But she was more concerned about the cracks and the bits that have been falling out of the exterior for some years. This is not just a cosmetic problem but a serious structural problem. And that of course means money.

Ultimately, she pulled a team together and proposed to us a study to figure out what is really going on and what can be done to repair the damage, prevent further damage, and make the outside clean and attractive.

The week before last, the Parish Property Committee met with the architect, studied the proposal for a study, and ultimately agreed to proceed with it. The study will be done by Kincannon Studios of Austin, with Holly Kincannon, AIA, as the Principal Architect. Kincannon Studios also worked on the exterior    masonry of St. Mary’s Cathedral on Tenth Street. That firm will be assisted by two others, the engineering firm of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. and the construction firm of Mid-Continental Restoration Co., Inc.

The total cost of this study is $26,706.50. Since this is not just about appearance but about safety, the Property Committee determined that we should go ahead as quickly as possible. From this study we should be able to determine exactly what is happening, what the current condition is (that is, just how bad is it), what options we have to repair the situation and a phased plan for repair, since we may not be able to swallow the whole cost of repair all at once.

So if you see scaffolding around the church or netting hanging on the exterior walls of the church, workmen busy on the exterior walls, or test patches for cleaning, you will know it is part of this study.

This September will mark the 60th year since the dedication of our church building. It is not wearing the years very well I am afraid Your prayers for the Property Committee and myself as we go forward are much appreciated.

God bless!

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