Last week, I referenced Pope Francis’ call to live with the Holy Spirit in our hearts and souls, allowing its “violent wind” move us to change and grow. I alluded to the fact that this transformative power of the Spirit is going to be a reality on our campus. That reality is fast approaching, and I think it is so important to communicate these changes directly. The Summer of Ultimate Flexibility is just scratching the surface of the significant and impactful changes to our campus and to our Parish Family that will be occurring in the upcoming months.
This image of old and new together provides a great visual illustration of our campus. The old lamp pole was erected 20 years ago as part of the Parish Activity Center (previously known as the Parish Life Center) construction. At the time, it was sufficient to light the walkway partially between the central parking lot and the Ballroom. However, as the Parish Family’s evening and night-time activities increased, it became apparent that it was no longer fully functional. A plan was put in place as part of our Capital Campaign, Build Our Future, Serve Our Past, to define and develop an effective lighting solution, along with many other initiatives over the next 3 years to renew and refresh our entire campus. However, God decided the time is now for all of it. He sent us a malicious visitor named Hurricane Irma who decimated and damaged nearly every square inch of our beloved church environment, just like this light pole. We are now moving forward positively and with purpose for the future of the Parish Family. The new light pole is not only more powerful, defusing more light and creating a welcoming environment, it is more ecological as an LED light, which reduces waste and power consumption (Pope Francis would be very happy). When all is said and done, our Parish Family will have an entirely new lighting system that will serve us effectively, efficiently, and safely. That is true for our entire campus, once we get through this complex time of repair, renovation, and renewal.
In the meantime, we have asked organizations, groups, and ministries who meet on our campus to please refrain from the use of our facilities starting on June 30, 2018. Our buildings will not be open for activities except for Masses and religious services like funerals, baptisms, and other Liturgical functions. Mission essential functions, like Faith Formation and CYO/CAO, will have access to our buildings and grounds for their activities and programs, but all other groups will need to suspend function on our campus. It has been described as a “stutter-step”, we must stop for a moment (several months), but we will come back even better and bigger, and want all those who meet here to continue to do so once the campus is safe and complete in our “new normal”.
It is going to take a significant effort to take all the complex tasks we have in store and execute them. We will have the weather to contend with, just as we felt this past weekend. We will have various materials and special items that will take time to be delivered and installed. Many of you have told me how you have been dealing with the exact same issues with your own homes. Construction materials are in short supply. Labor is even harder to find. There are long lead times on roofing projects. Unexpected issues always pop up (our Ballroom project is a great example), so as much as we are planning and identifying just about every possibility and variable, something will come up. However, we will be working with every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears that we can come up with. Our Construction Management company, Gates Construction, our architecture firm, Studios Plus, our Buildings and Grounds Council, and countless others have committed themselves to our Parish Family. We will be spending every waking hour on making Saint John not just whole again, but a beacon of love, community, and joy for decades to come. I wish I could provide specific details, like the date we are moving to the Ballroom for Mass, or the time-frame for opening the Life Center or the church back up, but it would be foolish and foolhardy to even predict that information until we have solidified all the variables described above. What I can tell you is that I have wrapped my heart and soul around this effort, and I will not rest until we are celebrating this renewed environment together. My beloved wife, Donna, can tell you as she shares this journey with me, the sleepless nights, the early and late teleconferences with vendors and suppliers, the pain I have felt in requesting suspension of essential community programs like Al-Anon, and AA, and most importantly, the responsibility I feel to and for you, our Parish Family.
I truly appreciate your commitment, your patience, your support, and your prayers as we delve into this massive undertaking for the betterment of our Parish Family. No matter if we are in the church or in the Ballroom, we will always be Saint John!