Building brings new sense of community to rural parish

| March 27, 2014 | 0 Comments
With the help of 10-year-old Oscar Heinkel, Archbishop Nienstedt blesses the offices and classrooms of the new building.

With the help of 10-year-old Oscar Heinkel, Archbishop Nienstedt blesses the offices and classrooms of the new building.

It was a packed house for the 10 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of the Prairie in Belle Plaine March 23, as parishioners, friends and alumni of its school gathered to celebrate the blessing of a new parish life center.

Zach Vandermark, a second-grader at Our Lady of the Prairie School in Belle Plaine, shows Archbishop John Nienstedt a rosary that was given to him by Father Michael Kaluza, pastor of Our Lady of the Prairie, before the blessing of the new parish life center March 23.

Zach Vandermark, a second-grader at Our Lady of the Prairie School in Belle Plaine, shows Archbishop John Nienstedt a rosary that was given to him by Father Michael Kaluza, pastor of Our Lady of the Prairie, before the blessing of the new parish life center March 23.

Archbishop John Nienstedt blessed the building, which is attached to the church and includes a new entrance with a ramp, gathering space, adoration chapel, offices and six classrooms for the parish school and religious education.

“It’s going to change everything for us,” said Karen Vandermark, a parishioner and parent of a second-grader. “It’s a whole new sense of community that it’s bringing to this parish. There’s a life and an energy that’s been renewed here. It’s fantastic to see the difference it’s made just in the few months that we’ve had it.”

The $1.8 million project began nearly three years ago with a capital campaign and was completed in December. Students returned from Christmas break to their new classrooms.

“It’s a beautiful new facility with all state-of-the-art technology, so it’s really nice for the students and the staff,” said Principal Mindy Reeder.

The building also brings the students closer to the church and the adoration chapel. The former school was a separate building.

“It just brings the focus on our faith all together so that [the] unity is there every day,” Reeder said.

The building is completely wheelchair-accessible, opening the door for more students to consider the school, which currently has 37 students in grades pre-K through sixth, she said. “That’s a beautiful gift.”

The new parish life center includes a gathering space, adoration chapel, offices and six classrooms for the parish school and religious education. A ramp at the entrance makes the church and school wheelchair-accessible.

The new parish life center includes a gathering space, adoration chapel, offices and six classrooms for the parish school and religious education. A ramp at the entrance makes the church and school wheelchair-accessible.

Originally built in 1878 with additions throughout the years, the old building served as a convent at one time and the school.

“It has become more of a liability than an asset, and while there are many memories there, it has served its purpose, and we have created the space we need for 21st century ministry in Belle Plaine,” said Father Michael Kaluza, pastor of Our Lady of the Prairie.

“It is a great blessing to have our school, and we realize that we are more blessed with a school than without a school,” he said. “The school has a long history and has always made a positive impact on our community.”

The furnishings and fixtures from the old building will be sold in an online auction, and the more than 100-year-old building will be demolished this summer, Father Kaluza said.

Photos by Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

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Category: Local News