Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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New church addresses access, comfort concerns

With old building demolished, St. Ignatius focuses on parish home details


The demolition of St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Oregon, which dated to 1927, is near completion. The parish plans to open its new 11,931-square-foot church by March. The project cost is $3 million.

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Demolition is mostly complete at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Oregon, and if all goes as planned, a new house of worship will be ready to receive worshipers in March.

The $3 million project will see an 11,931-square-foot church replace the old building, which dated to 1927, when it was rededicated after a fire. The pews will be more comfortable and able to accommodate 500 people at services, versus 300 in the old building, said Father Mark Herzog, the parish pastor.

The project, at 212 N. Stadium Rd., also includes a new parking lot on the south side of the property with 148 spaces, according to plans filed with the city’s building department by St. Ignatius’ architect, the Collaborative Inc.

The church has received final site-plan approval, said Jim Gilmore, Oregon’s building and zoning chief, and the board of zoning appeals granted a variance needed because the setback is less than the required 100 feet.

The bell tower and the parish community center behind the church will be preserved. The basement will be filled in so the new church entrance is at ground level, eliminating front stairs that created an accessibility problem. The new church will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and will have air conditioning.

Parish business manager Tony Romano said the old church’s lack of accessibility was a significant drawback, one that led some elderly members to attend Mass elsewhere because entering the church was too difficult. Those members have returned now that services were being conducted temporarily in the more-accessible Life Center.

Father Herzog said donations and pledges are paying for the project. So far, $2.6 million has been received, an amount that includes a $1 million bequest from the estate of the late Ernie Milibak, a parishioner who died in 2003.

“Since we announced in October that we received permission for the new church from the bishop, we have added an extra $50,000 in pledges and gifts,” Father Herzog said. About 350 of the 450 active parish families have donated through pledges or gifts, he said.

The project is not without detractors. Oregon resident Dave Jaeger said he was a lifelong member of St. Ignatius until the new church was announced. Not only did he decline to contribute, he said, he now attends Sunday Mass in Walbridge.

The old church, he said, was well built “like the Sistine Chapel, and not a throwaway church. Getting up the front steps was hard for some people, but modern-day technology could have fixed all of that.”

Father Herzog said the great majority of parishoners are behind the project. “In the last year, we have registered 35 new families into the parish. The parish has continued to maintain its Sunday collections and its outreach programs helping the poor. I take my hat off to the people of the parish. They have been fabulous.”

— Carl Ryan

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