February 19, 2010

St. Anne Parish to dedicate new church on Feb. 28

The new St. Anne Church in New Castle was designed by Entheos Architects in Indianapolis. Brandt Construction in Indianapolis was the principal contractor. Construction on the approximately $2.7 million project started on April 1, 2009, and was completed in early February. (Submitted photo)

The new St. Anne Church in New Castle was designed by Entheos Architects in Indianapolis. Brandt Construction in Indianapolis was the principal contractor. Construction on the approximately $2.7 million project started on April 1, 2009, and was completed in early February. (Submitted photo)

By Mary Ann Wyand

From the heartbreak of ashes comes the joy of new life.

St. Anne parishioners in Henry County will experience an emotional Lenten journey this year because of the Feb. 28 dedication of their new church at 1904 Broad St. in New Castle.

For three years, they have had to worship in the basement of the Parish Life Center as a result of the tragic arson fire that destroyed their 84-year-old brick church during the early morning hours on Holy Saturday, April 7, in 2007.

The liturgy invitation for parishioners and a few designated guests features an architectural drawing of the contemporary, handicap-accessible brick church built on the same site as well as a prayer that reads, “All glory and praise are yours, Lord God, for from ashes has arisen a church worthy of your praise.”

Parishioners will “sing our song of praise and gratitude,” the invitation explains, when Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, the principal celebrant, blesses and dedicates the new church during a 2 p.m. Mass.

On March 7, the public will be able to view the 325-seat church during an open house from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. and participate in a 3 p.m. prayer service with music.

“From the ashes will truly arise new life,” said Franciscan Sister Shirley Gerth, the parish life coordinator of St. Anne Parish in New Castle and St. Rose Parish in Knightstown during a Feb. 11 telephone interview.

“We really do feel that theme has been with us for the last three years of working through everything pertaining to the burning of the old church, the process of forgiveness and the sentencing [of convicted arsonist William L. Abbott of New Castle],” Sister Shirley said. “Every week, the parishioners prayed our ‘Rebuild My Church’ prayer, and I believe that prayer helped us accomplish all that we did with the construction of the new church.”

Reciting the prayer during Masses helped St. Anne parishioners “attain greater unity and a greater sense of vision,” she said, about what it means to be the Church.

“From all that has happened to us during the past three years, we became that prayer and as a result have been able to build a church that we feel is worthy of worship to God,” Sister Shirley said. “The people can hardly wait to be able to kneel in a sacred space for Mass again. They have grieved the loss of their old church, and also celebrated by watching the construction. They’re so excited and anxious to get into the new church. It will be a joyful Lent for us.”

After the dedication Mass, Sister Shirley said she just wants to “sit in the beautiful new church for a while and absorb everything that has happened to us on this journey.”

She is especially grateful to the parishioners for their financial pledges to help pay construction costs and purchase liturgical furnishings to supplement the insurance settlement as well as the generosity of so many parishes and individuals that also donated funds to rebuild the church.

“So many people shared our journey and have supported us prayerfully and through their financial donations,” Sister Shirley said. “We are so grateful and want to share our joy with them during the March 7 open house.”

St. Anne parishioners will pray their “Rebuild My Church” prayer for the last times during the weekend Masses on Feb. 20-21, she said, then will begin praying a new prayer titled “In Gratitude” to express their thanks to God, the archdiocese, and their many friends and benefactors.

“The Holy Spirit has guided us every step of the way,” Sister Shirley said. “We have much to be grateful for, and at the heart of all the gratitude is the forgiveness. You can’t celebrate if you haven’t forgiven.”

Eric Atkins, director of management services for the archdiocese, said it took almost a year and a half to resolve issues related to the insurance settlement, another year to design the new church after deciding to demolish what remained of the former church, and a third year for construction of the approximately $2.7 million project.

“It has been a long journey for the parishioners,” Atkins said. “After the floors and roof had burned and caved, the parish elected to proceed with demolishing the old church and constructing a new church based on the fact that it was very difficult to make the existing floor plan accessible because of the high steps on the front of the church and the basement.”

Atkins said the new church designed by Entheos Architects and built by Brandt Construction, both based in Indianapolis, features a rotated building from the former orientation with the sanctuary facing Broad Street.

He said the entrance on the north side faces 19th Street, and is accessible to the Parish Life Center and parking lot.

The new design is handicap accessible and maximizes available square footage, he said. It also incorporates some of the architectural elements from the old church, which was a landmark in New Castle and Henry County.

“The parish wanted to bring some of the elements that were in the historic church into the new building,” Atkins said. “There is a new [stained-glass] rose window and a small tower on the southwest corner. The tabernacle for the Blessed Sacrament is inside this tower, which makes a nice statement on the outside of the church. What they have now is a fully accessible church that is a wonderful culmination to the tragedy at their parish. The parishioners need to be commended for the hard work and tremendous effort they have put forth to create this beautiful sacramental space. It’s a time for celebration and joy.” †

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