Parishioners in the Delano Catholic Community celebrated their Harvest Festival the weekend of Sept. 22, but they had to wait to “unwrap” a gift to themselves that has been many years in the making.
The gift is a new social hall, related improvements, energy efficient boilers for both the churches of St. Joseph and St. Peter, a new playground for St. Peter’s School and more. The official unwrapping will be Sunday, Sept. 30.
The Rev. Paul Kammen, pastor for the Delano Catholic Community, called the event “the realization of a dream of something the parish has wanted to have happen for a long time.”
The big day on Sept. 30 will begin with Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche, of the Catholic Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul, celebrating the 8 a.m. Mass. At 9 a.m., he will bless the new social hall and Rev. Kammen will join him in the ribbon cutting. The 10:30 a.m. Mass will follow. The morning’s events also will include a pancake breakfast and a Ministry Fair, at which parishioners can learn about volunteer opportunities with over 40 parish ministries.
On grand opening day, parishioners will have much to see. For the first time, handicapped parishioners will have access to St. Peter’s church, and this access includes an elevator. The church is a historic building in Delano that predates modern handicapped access improvements.
At St. Peter’s, a new entry way features skylights and lighting that enables visitors to view the church’s stained glass windows both from the entry way and inside the church itself. This feature is necessary because an exterior wall of the church now is inside the entry way.
Seating 120 to 150 people, the new social hall is located above the St. Peter’s cafeteria and kitchen. The new facility spans the area between the church and the school and will be a place to house parish events, wedding receptions, meetings and community events. People visiting the church and social hall will find new bathrooms for their use.
At St. Joseph’s, the gym has a new roof. Youngsters at the Cherub Corner daycare center will benefit from this improvement.
Students at St. Peter’s School got a taste of improvements at the Catholic Community on the first day of school. On that day, Rev. Kammen blessed a new playground that replaced 24 year old equipment. Principal Shannon Calice had kept students off the playground until after the blessing.
“It was a fresh experience for the kids. They were so eager to get on the playground,” said Amy Jo Madsen, a St. Peter’s parent who headed the committee that made the playground a reality.
Madsen works at Landscape Structures (LSI) of Delano a manufacturer of playground equipment. She assembled a team of parishioners who also work at LSI. One team member designed the play equipment, which was manufactured at LSI. The group also assembled the playground that includes play opportunities for all age groups. All of these efforts saved the parish some money.
The long road to the Sept. 30 grand opening began shortly after a fire destroyed St. Peter’s old social hall in 2005. Parishioners raised funds year after year.
Finally, fund raising efforts yielded most, but not all, of the $1.4 million price tag for the improvements, according to Genevieve Fiedler, parish business administrator. The parish still needs to raise $200,000, and “this will take awhile,” she said.
Meanwhile, she was pleased that the parish would not have to take on much debt.
During the fund raising, various events slowed the parish’s efforts to bring its dreams into reality. Then last year, Rev. Kammen and a newly formed committee got together to see what could be done with money that had been raised up to that point. The group had to make some compromises, but it was able to develop a plan “that will meet the needs of the parish for a long time,” he said.
“This is a huge step,” he added. “With old buildings, obviously other things will come up.”
“I appreciate all the hard work of all these parishioners and the general contractor, Opus,” he said. “A lot of people spent a lot of time on this.”