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Published: Saturday, 5/29/2004

Renovation project alters feel of 105-year-old parish

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
The historic St. Martin de Porres Parish will hold a special Mass tomorrow to dedicate the renovation project. The historic St. Martin de Porres Parish will hold a special Mass tomorrow to dedicate the renovation project.
MORRISON / BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

It's a time of big changes at St. Martin de Porres Parish, Toledo's most multicultural Catholic church.

Longtime pastor the Rev. Martin Donnelly is shifting duties, effective July 1, to focus more on sacramental duties and ministry and less on administration, while Deacon John Algee will take on the role of pastoral leader.

And the historic 105-year-old parish on Bancroft Street will hold a special Mass tomorrow, Pentecost Sunday, dedicating an extensive renovation project that includes a new wooden altar and ambo, or speaker's platform, designed by Monclova woodworker Dean Ludwig.

The altar was relocated from the back of the church to the middle of the sanctuary, surrounded by a circle of movable chairs.

"Our sense of community around the altar was one of the main ideas," said Sandy Harding, a co-chair of the renovation committee. "We drew down the altar from its original position in the sanctuary to be in the middle of the people, and the ambo as well, so that we were truly a community gathered around the Word."

Discussions on the renovation concepts began with "listening sessions" about 3 1/2 years ago, Ms. Harding said.

St. Martin de Porres held workshops and brought in speakers who were knowledgeable about the evolution of worship spaces through the centuries.

"We found that worship spaces did not always look like gothic cathedrals," Ms. Harding said. "That loosened up our thinking."

The parish traces its history back to 1898 when it held its first Mass in a neighborhood hall as St. Ann's Catholic Church. A church and school were built on the Bancroft Street site in 1899 at a cost of $26,000, and the original church now serves as Gallagher Hall.

The current cathedral-style church was built in 1926.

In 1989, St. Ann's merged with two other Toledo parishes, St. Benedict's, which had been at Washington and Dorr streets and closed when the expressway was built, and St. Teresa's, which was founded in 1914 because St. Ann's was so overcrowded. The new parish was renamed St. Martin de Porres.

The renovation work on the Bancroft Street church, which cost a total of $490,000, began last year, and Mass was held in the church's courtyard throughout the summer while the sanctuary was under construction.

The new altar is made of three different kinds of wood, reflecting both the Holy Trinity and the church's roots in three parishes. Mr. Ludwig is a nationally known woodworker whose local work includes the altars at Corpus Christi University Parish in Toledo and All Saints Catholic Church in Rossford.

Father Donnelly, 65, said he had been thinking about retirement but that his new title of pastoral chaplain and presbyteral moderator will allow him to concentrate on the things he most enjoys, including celebrating Mass and performing the sacraments.

"It's definitely a change of role," he said. "I will be free to pursue those good works that I was ordained to pursue, beyond fund-raising and all that other business. I hope I will be able to pastor to people on a more individual basis than has been the case and not just be tangled up in administration and fund-raising, which can be distracting."

A dedication Mass consecrating the new altar and blessing the ambo and reconciliation chapel will be held at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church, 1119 West Bancroft St. with the Rev. Martin Donnelly and Auxiliary Bishop Robert Donnelly concelebrating.

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154



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