While the community of St. Mary Church in Melrose prepares to celebrate the Christmas season without their beloved building, which was severely damaged in a fire March 11, its members are hopeful that some traditions will carry on as usual. They are also grateful for the hospitality of neighboring churches that have welcomed them.
Back in June, the parish formed a steering committee to address questions as the process for developing a plan for restoration or new construction began. Rick Klaphake, a lifelong member of St. Mary’s, was named chair of the committee.
“Our goal is to gather information, work with the insurance company and the general contractors, and present the information back to the parishioners,” he said in an earlier interview with The Visitor. “The committee will not be making any decisions. There will need to be input from everybody before any decisions are made.”
Since then, the committee has continued to gather additional information to present to parish and diocesan leadership.
In September, the steering committee hosted a series of meetings in which a third-party consultant facilitated small group discussions and collected feedback from attendees. A “concept statement” was created in October by the company and is available on the parish website, www.oneinfaith.org. Approximately 400 parishioners participated in each of three sessions.
The statement acknowledges the grieving process parishioners are going through, and it identifies priorities for the church building — such as having a gathering space, accommodations for the elderly and handicapped and modern technology systems. It also notes points of consensus emerging from the discussions and next steps.
“The concept statement represents no decision nor is it final,” the statement reads. “Rather it will serve to narrow the range of potential facility solutions needs that can realistically be explored in sufficient detail for a decision to be made.”
Representatives from the steering committee met with Bishop Donald Kettler Dec. 2 to provide him an update.
“Bishop Kettler advised us to take our time in this project,” Klaphake said in a report to the parish. “He suggested we not only plan for today, but also plan for the future. We need to remember the millennium generation as they are in the social media world and they are the future of our parish. He also explained the ongoing decision making process between our parish and the diocese in approving the final plans regarding the liturgical commitment and affordability.”
Also in September, the St. Mary’s community, which has been holding its Masses in Meire Grove, began holding one of their Masses in the school gym on Saturdays at 5 p.m.
The most recent meeting Dec. 12 concluded the steering committee’s responsibility by presenting the information gathered to the parish and finance councils.
“It is now the responsibility of the parish and finance councils to evaluate the options and assess the financial information to move forward in making a decision,” the latest update read.
A mailer is planned to be sent to each household in the parish, informing them of the latest information.
Regular updates also are available on the parish’s website.