By Jodi Magallanes
SOUTH BEND — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades administered a blessing on a $3.9 million collection of updates, expansions and renovations underway at St. Jude Parish and School in South Bend on Sunday, May 19. He pronounced enthusiastically, “This addition — so many of you made sacrifices to produce it. This is so the mission of Jesus can be done. I’m so grateful to Father John (Delaney), and I’m grateful to all of you. … It’s because of your sacrificial giving. It’s because of your faith.”
The faithful gathered outside next to what will be an improved entryway to the parish and school grounds to celebrate the start of long-awaited updates and to receive that blessing on their effort. After thoroughly administering holy water across the construction grounds, Bishop Rhoades asked those who were present to pray that the changes would be brought to completion with God’s blessing and without injury.
St. Jude Parish was founded in 1948, when waves of returning soldiers overcrowded St. Matthew Cathedral, located up the road. The south side parish grew from an original census of 110 families to serving 675 registered families in a church building that was supposed to be temporary.
An auditorium built on the new site initially served as the parish’s worship center. A church building followed during the 1950s, although it was not intended to be a permanent location. Discussions took place off and on over the next three decades about building a new church or renovating the current structure. Under Bishop Rhoades those plans have come to fruition.
“That was certainly a factor we had to overcome,” said Joel Hoff, co-chairman of the project’s capital campaign. “People’s initial reaction was, ‘You’ve said this before.’”
Now, however, concrete has been poured and the walls of an addition to the school stand tall.
Because those previous plans and the long wait for a new or improved church and school building came up frequently when church leadership approached members about the renovations, the project came to be called “Our Time to Build.”
“Now the time has come. It’s our time to pray, and our time to build,” Hoff elaborated. Of great assistance was Father John Delaney, the parish’s shepherd since 2006. “He’s done this before, helped parishes do major renovations. That helped quite a bit,” said Hank Groot, project co-chairman.
In addition to miscellaneous repairs, an HVAC system original to the church and school will be updated; the flat roof of the school will be re-sloped to channel water and an elevator will be installed in the church. A main-floor narthex and outdoor plaza added to the church will provide gathering space that is close to nonexistent in the current configuration. School and parish offices will be moved and renovated to provide a single and convenient point of entrance and to free up additional instructional space. At the encouragement of the St. Jude’s School Board, an addition to the school will also allow the K-8 institution to add a preschool education program and to move the kindergarten classroom to a more practical location.
The most striking improvement may be the impression the parish gives to those who approach the church from Johnson Road. A driveway, used mainly for the school, will be widened and extended past the school addition and include a half-circle drive where parishioners can be dropped off for church.
According to Father Delaney, St. Jude’s bell tower will be moved and increased in height to accommodate not one, but three bells. One of the “new” bells hails from the St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, having been put into storage in 2007 after the faith community was merged into St. Jude.
Longtime parishioner Helen Orisich, however, said she had mainly been concerned about a large mosaic, which, several decades ago, she and others had hand-pieced to an outside wall of the church. “You bet they’re going to save that. It’ll stay. It has to,” she said. “My initials are on it.”
A three-year capital campaign to fund Our Time to Build initiated in September 2012. Parishioners have thus far contributed about 90 percent of the $3.9 million goal, exceeding what Hoff and Groot expected. “Once they realized this was really going to happen, they were generous even beyond our expectations,” Hoff said.
Phase III of the plan relies on parishioners continuing to be generous, however. A new school gymnasium/parish center has been relegated to the final phase of the project, pending additional donations. A call also went out in April to parishioners who may wish to sponsor specialty items that are desired as part of the renovations.
The school addition and renovations will be ready for use in the fall of 2013-14, with the church not far behind.
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