St. Joseph celebrates final Mass before renovationsAugust 31, 2021
By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
JASPER — Nearly every pew in the St. Joseph Catholic Church was filled Monday morning as parishioners celebrated the final Mass held in the church building for the next year.
Faint construction noise rumbled outside while churchgoers sat quietly waiting for the Mass to start. As exterior renovations on the church are set to wrap up by November, construction workers are beginning on the interior. For the next year, Mass will be held in the parish center as the work continues to reverse more than 130 years of use and weather on the church.
As Father Andrew Thomas led the Mass, he spoke to the crowd about how they are to remain hopeful until they can return to their regular place of prayer.
“The people who laid the cornerstones were people of hope, who didn’t know your names or my name, but knew that one day we would be in this place of prayer,” he said. “We can take all of that with us — the beauty of hearing the word of God, the beauty of receiving the sacraments. We can become people of hope.”
The church has only closed three times for renovations before. Phase one of this project’s renovations included cleaning and restoring the church’s stained glass windows, which were completed in 2018 and 2019. Phase two has consisted of exterior work, such as repairing the steeple and bell tower. Phase three will include interior renovations such as added lighting, a new sound system and a decorative wall.
The project has been in the works since about 2014, Renovation Chairman Alan Hoffman said. The repairs will total about $10 million, of which about $9 million has already been raised by a capital campaign called “Our Time.”
“It’s getting a total facelift,” Hoffman said. “It’s been like 50 or 60 years since anything major has been done.”
The church also temporarily closed last year due to COVID-19.
Some wore masks during Monday’s Mass, opting for hand sanitizer as they entered instead of holy water. No one held hands during the Lord’s Prayer. Families, friends and strangers waved at each other for the Sign of Peace instead of the usual hugs and handshakes. Otherwise, it was business as usual.
As the Mass concluded, Fr. Thomas led a procession to the parish center for adoration, carrying the host to show the moving of Christ’s physical presence. Some kneeled on the linoleum floor as it was standing-room-only in the smaller space. The parish plans to adjust the room to accommodate for more space before next week’s services, including a livestream of the Mass if there is overflow into the nearby gym building.
Parishioners lingered outside after adoration, chatting about how the last day had finally come and enjoying the sunny morning, just a few hours before Monday’s downpour.
“We did it,” one woman said to Fr. Thomas as she passed by. “We’re finally here.”
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