It looks like before long we will be starting school (this week!), Religious Education is starting up in just a couple of weeks, and soon we will be back in full swing for the fall programming. Where did summer go? Oh well, at least we are never bored here at St. Austin!
In addition to all the usual and normal fall activities, this year we also will be engaging in the repair and renovation of the exterior of our church and rectory. If you have not heard about all this over the past year, just go outside on Guadalupe Street and take a good look at the front of our church. You will see we have a problem.
This is not going to be an easy or cheap problem to fix. Because we still have a large debt on the parish (approximately 5.7 million dollars) due largely to acquiring the land for and the construction of the parking garage, we obviously need to do fund raising to address the exterior situation. Next month we will have professional fund raising consultants (Steier Group) conducting a feasibility study to determine how much we can reasonably expect to raise. You will be hearing more about this soon.
Once we have that information we will figure out exactly what we are able to do. At a minimum, we have to create a safe condition around the church and make sure no one could be hurt by falling stone. Hopefully we can go further than that. But let me nip two potential rumors in the bud right now:
We have NO intention, absolutely zero, of knocking down the current church offices and building a new church there, as was envisioned slightly over a decade ago. That is neither feasible nor desirable. We are looking at living with our current worship space for some time to come, maybe even another century. (However, the rectory, which also has the same problem with its exterior as the church, we are treating differently.)
Also, we are NOT looking at or contemplating any changes to our current church interior arrangements. That simply is not in the discussion. We may (depending on many factors) try to increase the number of bathrooms and make them more accessible, but otherwise everything will be addressing the exterior situation of the church and rectory.
The Parish Pastoral Council discussed all this at their planning retreat on Saturday, August 9. I proposed something to them that I had seen work successfully when we were planning to build a new church in Seneca, South Carolina, when I was pastor there. The architect, David Brown from Notre Dame, IN, urged us to have a “Good Shepherd” committee. This group would specifically be concerned NOT about the church building but rather with the church community during the design and construction process. Inevitably different people are going to want different things, and some compromises are going to have to be made. The purpose of the Good Shepherd Committee is to make sure that the members of the community are not hurt through the process. We want to make sure we build “Church” as we work to repair our church building.
So the Parish Council has adopted this committee. It’s duties will be to pray for the success of our repair and renovation project, to keep reminding the rest of the community to pray for its success, to make sure through the process we treat each other with respect, remain open, try to heal any wounds, help us all remember exactly why we are doing this, and through it all to maintain a good sense of humor.
While this is a committee of the Parish Pastoral Council, it is open to parishioners who are not on the PPC. If you know someone you think would be a good addition to this committee, even yourself, please forward his or her name to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There will be a few meetings to organize, but most of the work of this committee will be done outside of meetings.