Our Pastor’s Message
Hard Choices Ahead: Restoring Saint Ann Church
On Easter Sunday (April 5th), I shared with you what can only be called “a towering challenge” for the good and faithful people of Holy Family Parish. As many of you know, when I arrived here last summer, I was bombarded with comments and questions about a proposal to build an elevator in Saint Ann Church. At that time, the cost of this proposal was approximately one million dollars (and approximately forty percent of the funds would have been borrowed from the Archdiocese of Boston). There appeared to be much support for this project. However, after serving just a few weeks as your pastor, it became very clear to me that there was also much concern and doubt about the proposed project. There were also many unanswered questions. How would we repay the loan or raise the additional funds necessary to complete the project? Are there more affordable ways to improve access to the church and its restrooms for our disabled and elderly fellow parishioners? And what might happen if we begin a major construction project by cutting into the side of a 125 year old church building?
Last fall, Michael Horgan (our buildings & facilities manager who is an experienced contractor with deep roots in our community) inspected every inch of Saint Ann Church with me and members of our pastoral team. What we found was both disturbing and disheartening. We discovered that the “virtue” of long-deferred maintenance has become the vice of deterioration and neglect throughout Saint Ann Church. The ceiling over the spot where the elevator would open into the church is cracked and crumbling. Archways and ceilings in the choir loft are crumbling and crashing to the floor to the point where we have prohibited all access to the choir loft and bell tower. The anchors, frames, pins, and sills that support both the large and small rose windows in the church have decayed to the point where they may need to be removed so that the structures that support them can be rebuilt. Likewise, the buttresses on the front of the church have deteriorated to the point where we fear that they are literally separating from the building. Both side entrances to the church are in desperate and obvious need of repair and restoration. And this to-do list does not include the long-overdue painting of the interior of the church or the long-overdue restoration of the parish hall (including the kitchen, bathrooms, and heating system).
Many of the problems described above have been caused by leaks in the bell tower that allow water to travel from the steeple, through the tower, and then into the space between the exterior masonry and interior plaster. These leaks are causing the tower, the east wall of the church, and the interior plaster in the choir loft and vestibule to deteriorate at an accelerated pace, causing damage to the front doors, walls, and woodwork of the church. This “towering challenge” is worsened by severe winters which cause water to freeze, expand, melt, and contract. Overall, this potentially ruinous situation is urgent and must be addressed now. In short, we have reached the point where major portions of our beautiful and historic church must be restored, not just repaired, for both safety and structural reasons. Again, this is no longer about maintaining and repairing our church, this is about restoring and saving it!
As I promised to you last fall, after consulting with our finance and pastoral councils, I commissioned an independent engineering firm to formally inspect our church building and report their findings. Needless to say, this first formal inspection revealed results almost identical to our informal inspections. So after consulting again with our finance council, I gave approval to contract CBI Consulting of Boston to again inspect the building in order to determine the estimated cost of repairing and restoring the east wall, windows, and tower of our church. This sixty-two page report is now posted here on our website (see link below). A limited number of additional copies are also available at our pastoral offices. Essentially, the report makes clear that the long-term structural integrity of Saint Ann Church depends on our ability and commitment to completing this repair and restoration work in a timely manner.
Since receiving CBI Consulting’s report in mid-May, I have asked many questions, consulted with Mike Horgan and other professionals about the conclusions of the report, and prayed a great deal about the difficult decisions that lie ahead for our parish. At this point, it seems abundantly clear to me that we cannot begin an expensive elevator project when the long-term structural integrity of our church is in doubt. Essentially, we must decide as a community whether to return the donations made to install the proposed elevator or to use those donations (with your support) to first repair, restore, and ultimately save Saint Ann Church for future generations; and then address accessibility to the church and its restrooms. I cannot make these hard choices alone, so I ask for your prayers, your advice, and finally your support in making a final decision that is just, right, and in the best long-term interests of our parish. If you have any questions, comments, or suggests, please contact feel welcome to contact me or to see me before or after Mass. Saint Ann, pray for us!
Peace and blessings to all,
Reverend James M. Achadinha, Pastor
Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport
Heartsavers CPR Course
Saturday, September 12th
Irene Kerr, a certified CPR instructor, longtime friend of our pastor, and member of the Assisi Project has generously offered to teach the American Heart Association’s Heartsavers CPR Course to parishioners and friends of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport on Saturday, September 12th. Upon completion, participants will receive a certification from the American Heart Association in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other lifesaving techniques. Two courses are available! A morning session will begin at 8:45am and conclude at 11:45am. An afternoon session will begin at 12:45pm and conclude at 3:45pm. Pick one! The Heartsavers CPR Course is free but limited to just six participants per class session. If you would like to join us, please contact Cliff Garvey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! All are welcome!
Established in 2014, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport is a collaborative of two historic parishes: Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Our worship sites include Saint Ann Church in Gloucester, Saint Anthony Chapel in Gloucester, Saint Joachim Church in Rockport, and Our Lady of Good Voyage Church in Gloucester. We are a Roman Catholic faith community united in prayer, fellowship, and service. For more information about becoming a member of one of our parishes, please contact Father Jim at email@example.com. Please join us! All are welcome!
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