Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, October 19

On Wednesday evening, Oct 8, we had a presentation by the architects we had selected to assist us on our church and rectory exterior renovation project. Sixth River Architects presented three different schemes to get our creative juices flowing. They solicited feedback and input from the just over 100 parishioners who attended, in order to begin moving forward to an concrete proposal. You can view these three schemes, though not the whole “fly through” presentation, on the parish website at www.staustin.org/renovation. There are also prints posted in the back of the church and in Hecker Hall.
We are hoping to achieve several goals in this renovation project. FIRST of course is to make our campus safe. That is our first concern and responsibility. If this were our ONLY concern, then a simple solution would be to erect safety barriers and covers and metal awnings and just live with that for the next 20 years. It would, of course, be pretty ugly and unattractive, but it would be faster and a whole lot cheaper.
But we are using this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to also address some mission issues. We have very little presence on Guadalupe Street. If we were trying to camouflage the church, we would win an award. We have repeatedly had the situation of visitors who come here for weddings or funerals or concerts who tell us that they have driven up and down Guadalupe Street for years and never knew a church was here. One of the members of our choir tells how she drove by the church three times while actually looking for it before she found it. A member of our Finance Council went to UT for four years, had her hair done just down the block, and never knew there was a church here. For the sake of the mission that we have to be an evangelizing parish, we need a much greater sense of presence, welcoming, and impact on the Drag. That is what these three architectural schemes attempt to do.
In addition, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address the grey, mottled appearance due to mold growing in the limestone on the church and rectory. It is, quite frankly, very unattractive. Our house of worship should be beautiful and welcoming and inspiring. If you stand across the street in front of the Dobie Mall, and examine our fa├žade critically, you can see it is in need of a face-lift. We now have the opportunity to do that.
Other goals we have and may be able to accomplish in this renovation project are: 
§  Increase number of bathrooms and make (some at least) ADA compliant. 
§  Enhance and beautify route from our garage to the front entrance of the church making it more inviting and easier to find the way into church.
§  Repurpose the old office section of the rectory ground floor for Children’s Liturgy of the Word and other parish uses.
§  Perhaps install solar panels on the garage or elsewhere to reduce our utility costs.
§  Upgrade the rectory kitchen, which is in need of some TLC.
Of course this will all take money. We will be launching a capital campaign to help us reduce our debt and to finance this renovation project. You will hear more about that in the next couple of months.
Meanwhile if you have any comments, suggestions or questions about the three architectural schemes, I highly encourage you to seek out one of the parishioners who attended the presentation on October 8. It is pretty hard to understand the schemes from the pictures alone, without the presentation. Some of the information is on the parish website as well. After finding out about it, your input and suggestions are welcome, and may be emailed to PropertyCommittee@StAustin.org.
This is an exciting as well as challenging time for our parish. I hope that you will be a part of it.

God Bless,

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