St. Mary Ireland wrapping up construction

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
J & L Acoustics Carpenter John Blake carries materials while working at the new St. Mary Church in Ireland on Monday. The new church's dedication is set for June 28.

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

IRELAND — In a few short months, parishioners at St. Mary Church in Ireland will gather for Mass with Bishop Joseph Siegel in a brand new church.

The Mass — scheduled for June 28 — will dedicate the new St. Mary Church building, which will be the first new church the Catholic Diocese of Evansville has built in a decade.

Construction Manager Pat Gress, who is a member of St. Mary, said he’s amazed at how well the project has gone. All the scaffolding is out of the interior, Gress said, and the ceilings are complete. Right now, crews from Streicher Construction of Jasper are focused on the lower level, which will house the church offices.

“We’re trying to have it done the same time as the upper level,” Gress said.

The $6 million project, funded through a capital campaign that kicked off in March 2017, was no small undertaking.

Able to seat 700 and featuring several new amenities like larger restrooms and a large gathering area at the entrance, called a narthex, the new church is almost three times larger than the current church, which seats 380.

Streicher Construction Foreman Tom Breitwieser trims wall covering while working at the new St. Mary Church in Ireland on Monday.

The project also includes building an additional parking lot on the north side of the new church, and some new interior decor. All of the church’s current stained glass windows are being refurbished by Mominee Studios in Evansville, and the congregation also commissioned nine new windows.

Currently, the church has enough funds to cover the project, Gress said, but not without digging into the church’s savings. Right now, the capital campaign is about $400,000 short of covering everything, leading church leadership to kick off another round of fundraising at the beginning of 2020. The goal is to make it all the way to the $6 million goal.

Gress stressed that the church does have enough to pay for the project even if the capital campaign doesn’t reach the $6 million goal.

“We just won’t have as much money in the bank when we’re done,” he said.

More information on the capital campaign and how to donate can be found under the Building Our Future Campaign tab on the church’s website, https://stmary.irelandindiana.com.

Once the new church is complete and parish staff have moved in, Gress said the old church building will be demolished. The current office building, which is an old house on the property, will also be knocked down if no one chooses to purchase and relocate it, Gress said. Once moved, it would require some remodeling work.

“They’d have a pretty nice house for about half the cost of building a new one,” Gress said.

While it will be sad to see the old church — which was built in 1904 — torn down, Gress said there’s a feeling of excitement among the parishioners, especially now that they can see the new church nearing completion. Even people who were against building a new church are coming around, Gress said, citing a recent tour with a group of parishioners who were reluctant to build a new church.

“They were happy with it,” Gress said. “They said they were just amazed and pleased at how it’s turning out and looking so much like the old one.”




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