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St. Teresa: New church, same strong faith

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

By Eileen Connelly, OSU

ST. MARYS DEANERY — Members of St. Teresa Parish in Rockford celebrated the expansion of their faith community and the opportunity to prepare a place for future generations to worship with a Mass on June 21 during which the building that will serve as their new church was dedicated. Coadjutor Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr presided.

The move from the original church in downtown Rockford to an existing church outside the village was made to meet the needs of St. Teresa’s growing congregation, explained Precious Blood Father Thomas Brenberger, pastor.


The new St. Teresa Church in Rockford was dedicated on June 21. View more photos here. (CT/E.L. Hubbard)

“Basically, it was a question of space,” he said.

The parish currently serves 130 families, but the original church, built in 1937, only had seating for about 100 people, making it difficult to use for weddings, funerals or large other gatherings.

“We had to look to the future when we’ll probably have to go back to one Mass on the weekend. It’s also an opportunity for us to grow,” said Father Brenberger, who also serves as pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Celina, which is clustered with St. Teresa.

Parish leaders began exploring their options, including adding on to the church or building a new worship space, both of which were cost prohibitive, said Greg Putoff, parish council president. Last August, Putoff proposed looking into the purchase of an empty rural church that he passes while commuting to work. An open house was held to enable parishioners to view the building, and a majority vote approved its purchase for $105,000 in December, using funds from a recent bequest to the parish.

The new St. Teresa Church, located on state Route 707, formerly served members of the Otterbein United Brethren in Christ Church, who have disbanded. The 4,000-square-foot structure has nearly double the seating capacity and includes office and classroom space, which the original church does not.

Gary Raffel, director of property management for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, said in his 31 years on the job this is the first case he is aware of where a Catholic parish bought an existing building rather than constructing a new facility.

Although some parishioners initially had mixed emotions about the move, which requires driving a few miles out of town to attend Mass, Diane Huber, parish office manager said, “I think everyone is very, very pleased now. They’ve come to realize it was a great idea. I think it helped that we tried to keep everyone involved in the decision process.”

“I think this is a very good thing for the parish,” Father Brenberger added, “There’s more than enough space for the whole congregation. It gives us room to celebrate things together.”

Renovations to the new church included the addition of central air conditioning and a confessional booth and remodeling of the basement kitchen. Statues and the Stations of the Cross from the old church were moved into the new worship space, as was the altar, which has been redone. Donations from parishioners allowed for the addition of a new stone wall behind the altar and the purchase of kneelers. The old church is in the process of being sold to the Rockford Methodist Church, and the rectory will likely be put up for sale, Huber said.

Puthoff expressed his gratitude for the parishioners’ assistance in making the transition to their new church a smooth one. “When we first got the building, we had a clean-up day, and many parishioners came forward for that,” he said. “There were also so many volunteers to help move. It just raised the spirit of our whole congregation.”

The final Mass at the old St. Teresa Church was held on May 24, the feast of the Ascension, with parishioners coming together for the opening Mass at their new church on Pentecost the following weekend.

Before the start of the Mass dedicating the church and altar, the congregation gathered outside as the keys to the building were presented to Archbishop Schnurr. This was followed by a procession into the church, which was filled to capacity for the liturgy.

During his homily, Archbishop Schnurr stressed the importance of remembering the people who brought their families and their faith to the area and whose labor on behalf of the church fostered spiritual benefits for successive generations.

“Our presence here today testifies to the fact that they did not labor in vain,” he said. “This church gives witness to a courageous and vibrant faith community. It gives witness to your commitment to take the next steps in the faith life of the church by setting your sights on handing down the faith in a way that gives life to the next generations. This new church now stands as a monument to your faith, as well as a prophetic witness to the presence of God in the world and to the importance of God in our lives.”

“May this church always be a visual proclamation of the beautiful message, ‘Emmanuel: God is with us.’ May our lives, day in and day out, ever renewed in this house of God, house of prayer, lead others to join us in rejoicing because God is indeed with us,” Archbishop Schnurr added.

In reflecting on the occasion Puthoff said, “You could just tell how excited the whole parish is. You feel good when you see the fears you had at first are gone. To me, it’s a great feeling that we outgrew the old building and had to go someplace bigger. I hope the founding members of the parish feel good that what they’ve started has expanded so much.”

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