Building Committee Questions and Answers
In January of last year the Building Committee started working with an architect to create a master plan, what happened with that?
The architect interviewed parishioners, committees, and social groups at St. Thomas. He then created a list of needs to develop a master plan. He hosted a town hall meeting last February and presented his findings. Questions were raised by parishioners regarding the unrealistic financial expectations of the master plan. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis echoed these same concerns, and asked us to pause the process until they could further evaluate our plans.
What did the Archdiocese conclude?
The Archdiocese allowed us to create a master plan for the next 30 years, but limited the first phase to the meet the need of the projected population growth over the next 10 years and a budget of 3-4 times our annual income.
It seems like housing developments are popping up everywhere, don’t we need to respond to that growth?
Yes. A demographic report was created and approved by the Archdiocese that estimated the number of people attending Mass on Sundays would increase by 138 attendees total over the next 10 years. This represents 2% of the total population growth of northern Hancock County. Using information from Mount Vernon School Corporation and their projected growth, the pre K-8 religious education program could gain 28 students and the informal high school youth program could gain 12 students. In the past when the religious education program needed additional space due to growth, students in 5-12th grade met in the evening and pre K-4th grade met in the morning.
St. Thomas has had 400 people attending Mass in the past and a fourth Mass was added, can we do that again?
No. In fact, over the next 10 years, due to the number of priests in the Archdiocese, we expect to have to share a priest with a neighboring parish as many of the Archdiocese churches with our number of households are already doing. When this occurs, we will only have one Mass.
Why do we have to consider moving the campus across the street? Why can’t we buy houses north of St. Thomas and expand our property in that direction? Why can’t we buy Garden Street and connect the properties?
The Saint Thomas campus is limited by the available buildable space. We have considered demolishing buildings in order to build new. In the past Saint Thomas has purchased residential homes to meet its need for additional space. At this time, the Town of Fortville expects the houses between St. Thomas and Broadway to be demolished and replaced with commercial property. If we decided to try to purchase these homes to meet our space needs, St. Thomas would be bidding against developers and challenging the town’s plan for this property. The town of Fortville expects Garden street to become an important roadway in town and they will not sell it to us.
Could we sell all our property and build farther out on cheaper farmland?
Yes, we could. It would mean distancing ourselves from the historic church and moving from where most of our parishioners live. Approximately 1-2% of the people who live in our parish boundaries attend St. Thomas. Approximately 50% of our parishioners come from outside our boundaries from the north and east.
Can we add onto the church?
Good question. The Archdiocese referred us to a 100 year old church in Greencastle that is being added on to this year. Enlarging the church would substantially change the church and make it impossible to move the building if we wanted to do that in the future. Adding on to the church would also eliminate a significant amount of green space and parking
What is going to happen to the historic church?
Aside from our attachment to our beautiful church, we have discovered it is unique in the Archdiocese and we have prioritized preserving it. St. Thomas is one of the few remaining historic churches in the Archdiocese that has not been substantially altered from its original construction and is in good repair. We have been told churches no longer can be built with the rear altar due to liturgical changes since Vatican II. While we can build a traditional style church, we can not recreate all its historic elements. Our church is a source of curiosity and many people seek it out for tours and because of historical interest. It is a way for us to explain our Catholic faith in an approachable way.
I thought the land across the street was too wet to build on. Is it?
The land is lower and does have a waterway running through it. A retention pond would have to be installed and drainage would have to be addressed.
Why can’t we sell the land the church is on now and use that money to build across the street?
We believe this should be taken into consideration. According to the architects estimate, the cost of replacing the square footage in our existing parish hall would be over a million dollars and building a new church that would seat the entire congregation in 10 years’ time would be an additional 4 million dollars. It is estimated a capital campaign would raise approximately $600,000 -$800,000. Because the cost of new construction is beyond our financial means were are considering this option to help pay for new construction.
What would happen to the church if we sold our existing property?
We have explored moving the church across the street to save it. We have consulted with a historic preservation organization and historic building movers to assess the building. Their engineers told us at that time it can be moved and it would cost approximately $200,000 including the cost of a new foundation.
I heard there was interest in building a 400 person reception venue, is that true?
There is interest in building a large social space to seat 300-400 people. Currently our hall has approximately 2000 square feet and is rated by fire code to seat 140 people. There have been times when we have wanted to seat 200 or more for church celebrations or events. St. Thomas has historically been a good host and routinely builds community through youth breakfasts, pitch-in dinners, Lenten dinners and occasional large scale social events for the entire community. This is a part of our ministry which we expect to continue. We are confirming the amount of square footage necessary to seat 300-400 people and trying to find ways to use room dividers so the church can use the space for groups to meet on Sundays and during the week. During interviews with the architect, a preference for circle tables over rectangular was expressed. Circular tables require more square footage to seat the same number of people as rectangular tables so we are considering using rectangular tables instead of circular tables.
So, what are our needs?
- Seating 200-450 people at a single Mass due to priest shortage
- Update and increase capacity of our social space to accommodate at least seating for 300.
- Allow for more than one 50 person group to meet at the same time.
- Create a Narthex with ADA compliant bathrooms for fellowship space immediately following Mass.
- Create dedicated meeting space for teens
- Provide adequate small group meeting space to accommodate groups meeting Sunday mornings.
- Increase energy efficiency of buildings.
- Maintain greenspace and improve parking and accessibility to buildings.
- Increase storage at the church to allow items stored in parishioner’s homes to be stored at the church.
- Reconfigure and add office space for priest and three office staff.
How are you going to do all of that on our budget?
We hope that the architect will help develop phases that are feasible. If you have suggestions, please let us know.
What is the process going forward?
We will continue to meet with the architect to create a plan for the future that meets the needs above. We will then present that plan to the Archdiocese for approval. After that we are required to hire a company to interview parishioners to determine if 70-80% of parishioners support the plan. Once this is accomplished, we will be allowed to have a capital campaign for the first phase of the project. When 100% of the money is pledged and 50% collected, we will be allowed to move forward with construction.
For Comments or questions please contact Stthomasbuildingcommittee@gmail.com.