A question I get asked a lot is, “How’s the construction going?” Based on personal observation I can only tell you that people are working on both sides of the church and that stuff is going up. Based on what I have been told, however, everything is on schedule. The contractors (Power Construction for the 311 Building and Norcon for the rectory renovations) have encountered some surprises, but none of the surprises has significantly delayed construction. Remnants of the foundation of the nineteenth century buildings that once flanked the church were hiding underground and had to be dug out; and, in our 1962 rectory building, they encountered more asbestos and more lead paint than they expected (which, of course, has to be removed under strict environmental conditions). Norcon found some of the rustiest pipes that anyone would ever want to see in the rectory walls. The plumbing and heating and air conditioning system were quite literally on life-support when we moved out.
Norcon expects to complete the rectory expansion and renovation by March and Power Construction expects to complete the high-rise on the site of our former parking lot in early 2018. When that building is finished, the first 35 parking spaces in the parking area will be reserved for Assumption (The entrance will be off the alley at Franklin). As you can see, an additional floor is being added to the rectory building. When complete, the parish office, meeting rooms and living space for the Servites will all be handicapped accessible. An elevator is being installed. The parish will have full use of the lower level and the ground level. Bedrooms, kitchen, and community room for the Servite friars will be on the second and third levels. The Servites chose to add the third floor with the idea that those in studies or some of the retired friars who were still mobile would find Assumption an attractive place to live. Priests who could no longer drive or students from overseas who were without a license could easily access public transportation, cabs, and ride sharing services and could walk to the drug store, etc. In the past, the parish provided meals and housing for all the friars living at Assumption and took care of all maintenance issues. With the expectation that at some point in the future there will be a larger Servite community, including some friars who may not be involved in the parish in any way, new financial arrangements between the parish and the resident Servite community regarding the division of expenses are being addressed. Your finance council is involved in these discussions. Meanwhile, between now and March, parish life will continue to be somewhat constricted by the limitations of our present facilities and the limited number of meeting spaces that we have available. For example, we will not be able to have Hospitality Sunday in October because the parish hall will be in use, but hopefully we can hospitable again in November.
I know those were two long and meaty paragraphs, but they actually say very little about who we are as a faith community or what we want to do in our new facility when it becomes available. Building the church is more important than buildings around the church. Our pastoral council has chosen as its theme for the year “Sharing the Faith” (which may, in fact, be a theme for many years to come!). It is an attempt to dig a little deeper than just trying to get more people to come to church or get more people involved in our ministries—although those are certainly hoped for outcomes from Sharing the Faith. It is fundamentally about how we in big ways and small ways are able to talk about our faith and explain to others why our faith matters to us. What does being part of the Church mean to you? How has Jesus and his teaching impacted your life? If you are not able to answer those questions, I suggest that you give them some thought. Studies have shown that the primary reason that Catholics stop coming to church (and numbers are continuing to slide) is not because of scandals or church teachings or bad music or boring homilies or second marriages or any of the other usual suspects. The primary reason that people stop coming is that they never felt a personal connection to Christ in the first place. They never experienced a real communion with Christ when they came to communion. They never understood why their presence at church was important. So, the temptation to sleep in or just go to brunch or whatever else everybody else seems to be doing on Sunday morning gradually takes over. Why am I here today? That is a question we all need to be able to answer.