August 19, 2011

Renovated parish center dedicated at St. Anne in New Castle

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, center, auxiliary bishop and vicar general, blesses the new St. Anne Parish Center during a dedication ceremony on Aug. 14 in New Castle. Assisting the bishop are, from left, altar servers Timmy Welch and Margy Welch; Father Joseph Rautenberg, sacramental minister; Father Stanley Herber, dean of the Connersville Deanery and priest moderator; Ford Cox, executive assistant to the archbishop and auxiliary bishop and liaison for episcopal affairs; lifetime parishioner John McGrady; parishioner Brittany West; longtime parishioner Iris Niflis; and deacon candidate Russell Woodard, parish life coordinator. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, center, auxiliary bishop and vicar general, blesses the new St. Anne Parish Center during a dedication ceremony on Aug. 14 in New Castle. Assisting the bishop are, from left, altar servers Timmy Welch and Margy Welch; Father Joseph Rautenberg, sacramental minister; Father Stanley Herber, dean of the Connersville Deanery and priest moderator; Ford Cox, executive assistant to the archbishop and auxiliary bishop and liaison for episcopal affairs; lifetime parishioner John McGrady; parishioner Brittany West; longtime parishioner Iris Niflis; and deacon candidate Russell Woodard, parish life coordinator. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

By Mary Ann Garber

NEW CASTLE—Newly renovated and handicap-accessible, the St. Anne Parish Center architecturally and symbolically unites the campus of the Henry County faith community that has grown stronger in the midst of adversity during the past four years.

The brick building sits behind the new St. Anne Church at 102 N. 19th St., which was consecrated on Feb. 28, 2010, to replace the former church destroyed in an arson fire on Holy Saturday, April 7, 2007.

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, auxiliary bishop and vicar general, blessed and dedicated St. Anne’s former school following a noon Mass on Aug. 14 then greeted parishioners as he toured the religious education and meeting space.

Two entrance doors centered on the north and south sides of the Parish Center enable parishioners and guests to easily walk from the parking lot on the north side of the campus through the building to the church entrance.

The center houses the parish offices, 11 classrooms, and two large meeting spaces with adjoining kitchens and restrooms.

Deacon candidate Russell Woodard, St. Anne’s parish life coordinator, said after the dedication that the $1.1 million renovation project transformed the outdated school floor plan into a functional multipurpose center.

“It’s a wonderful renovation,” Woodard said. “The school has been closed since the mid-’80s. It’s been used for religious education and offices, but never was really fit to serve those purposes. It was built in the 1950s and never updated so we had large rooms that were not very usable.

“With the momentum that was gained after the church was rebuilt, we were able to renovate this building,” he said. “It’s a blessing because now we have more appropriate sized rooms. We have been able to move our parish hall upstairs to where it is accessible. That’s especially important for our funeral meals and other large gatherings.”

Renovation of the Parish Center began in December 2010, Woodard said, and reflects the love that the people have for God and the Church.

“Even though many of the parishioners still have pledges on the church that they are paying, they stepped up and made additional pledges to help pay for this project,” he said. “The children are our future, and we recognize that having an appropriate place for them for religious education is important. That’s really what drove this project.”

During the liturgy, many parishioners appeared emotional as Bishop Coyne noted in his homily that, “Faith is easy when it isn’t tested.”

But we can be people of hope, the auxiliary bishop said, because “God gives each one of us what we need to follow him, what we need to grow in Christian love, what we need to hear. He gives it to each of us through the sacraments of the Church, through our prayer life, through the Scriptures, through the good works and words of others around us.

“What a joy it is for me to be here today with you to celebrate this Mass and to bless your new parish center … after much work and prayer by so many members of your parish,” he said. “… May all who come here know the presence of Christ, experience the joy of his friendship and grow in his love. … We pray that the word of God may always echo from its walls.”

Special guests included several Providence sisters who served as principals or teachers at the former St. Anne School.

After the dedication, Providence Sister Ann Marie Boyce, who ministered as a teacher and principal from 1966-76, said “it’s wonderful that the parish has been able to hold together despite all of the suffering that they’ve gone through.”

Parishioner and business manager Patty Hughes said she is “so proud of us as a parish. We had that tragedy four years ago, and we’ve really stepped up and come together as a parish family. It’s been wonderful. And it’s not just the parish. The community came together to help us.”

Father Stanley Herber, dean of the Connersville Deanery and priest moderator of the parish, said he is pleased “the old school is going to be used in many ways.”

Father Joseph Rautenberg, the parish’s sacramental minister, noted that St. Anne’s 250 households focus on their faith and hospitality.

“I’m very happy for the parish,” he said. “I think it will be both a symbol and a resource for parish life in the future.”

Parishioner Doug Magers recently published St. Anne and Her People, a 356-page history of the Henry County faith community featuring more than 700 photographs taken from 1872 to 2010. The book sells for $30 plus $5 for mailing costs, and can be purchased by contacting the parish office at 765-529-0933.

“The day the church burned was the worst day of my life,” Magers said. “That was the nudge for me to finish the book.” †

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