new church to give greater glory to God. These changes bring the excitement of the potential of working together as a team,” noted father Joe.
The existing church and parish school were built in 1953 and 1958 under St. Jude’s first pastor, Father Nolan. Originally a church hall, the current annex section of the church was remodeled years later to increase capacity. That “L” shape has prevented the entire congregation from being together at each mass, and is a problem that parishioners are excited the new church design will alleviate.
“It’s such an exciting time for our parish,” remarked parishioner Suzanne Modrovsky. “Our new church will allow parishioners to come together as one. We will meet new friends that perhaps have attended the same mass for 20 years, but due to the L-shaped church, were separated from each other.”
While the age and capacity of the current building, as well as the cost of construction and materials have made it more cost effective to build new rather than renovate, Father Joe has stressed that there will be both new and old in the new building. The original painting that was on the sanctuary wall at St. Catherine’s has been restored and will symbolize continuity from the first church built on the mountain to the new church. The shrine to St. Jude, located in the current building will be carried into the new building, as will as a portion of the stained glass windows.
The building of a new church in Mountaintop is an exception to what has become the rule of Catholic Church closures in recent years, and ironically, those closures will also help bring the new church to life, for example, marble altars from St. Francis in Hazleton.
“Through the closures of other churches we have been able to acquire priceless items you could never have commissioned today,” explained Father Joe back in July. “We are able to bring together the old and new and, using sacred furniture pieces of other churches, bring the tradition and history of the Catholic Church together with the new structure.”
Fittingly, this first visible sign of the new construction takes place on the Catholic holy day of Pentecost, the symbolic birth of the Roman Catholic Church. The new church building will house an administrative wing in honor of Msgr. William Ward as the current Msgr. Ward Parish Center will be razed in the coming weeks to make way for the construction. Actual construction on the new church will begin in begin early June and is expected to take 14 to 16 months for an estimated cost of $8 -$9 million. The parish will continue to worship in the existing church during construction, which will eventually be razed to make room for parking once the transition is complete.
It may seem difficult to believe for the St. Jude community that, nearly a year ago, Father Joe was working to maintain the patience of his parishioners throughout what was, and still may be, a very lengthy process. At the time, he had commented on all the planning and procedures that needed to happen before anybody saw the concrete result of their labor with a “shovel in the ground”. Now, the congregation of St. Jude can see that shovel, and know that the final stages of construction are upon them.
“This is a wonderfully exciting time for possibilities to secure the Catholic Church on the mountain and really appreciate Gods work in our lives. I am looking forward to being able to experience that and to give thanks to God for that moment,” commented Father Joe.
Bishop Bambera’s presence on Saturday adds the hope that God’s blessing is also upon them and their new endeavor.