Parish in Monmouth planning church restoration, parish hall

Photo Caption: An architect’s rendering of the entrance to a parish hall planned for Immaculate Conception Parish in Monmouth. A capital campaign was recently announced for a series of parish and school projects.

MONMOUTH — One capital campaign to fund several needed projects at Immaculate Conception Church and School here was launched April 28.

“Building Our Future in Faith” is the theme of the $1.14 million campaign that will support a restoration of several aspects of the nearly 130-year-old church and the construction of a new building that will include a multi-purpose hall, a chapel, new parish offices, and three new classrooms for the junior high of Immaculate Conception School.

“Our school enrollment is going up and we could use some extra spaces,” explained Msgr. Thomas Mack, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish. A parish hall has been desired for some time, he said, and adult education programs are limited because of lack of meeting space. Last year’s RCIA, for example, took place in a hospital board room.

Plans for the new construction as well as details of the church restoration were enthusiastically endorsed before a crowd of more than 350 at a lunch and program at the parish. Offering an overview of the church restoration was Mike Rigali of Daprato Rigali Studios, while Mark Miller from the architectural firm of Bracke, Hayes, Miller, and Mahon explained the design of the hall and school addition.

Returning to the parish as keynote speaker was Msgr. Gregory Ketcham, who now serves as chaplain and director of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois in Champaign. Immaculate Conception was Msgr. Ketcham’s first assignment after ordination, and “he is very special to us,” said Leo Ramer, parish music director who served as master of ceremonies for the luncheon.

Ramer noted that among the restorations planned in the church is a repair and enhancement of the parish’s historic pipe organ, installed when the church was built and refurbished over the years.

“It’s a fabulous instrument and well-preserved,” said Ramer. “The pipes, nuts and bolts are still original.”

Parish Masses are expected to be celebrated in the school gym this summer as the church interior is replastered and repainted. Outside protective coverings on the stained-glass windows will be replaced, enabling the colors to again “pop,” according to Msgr. Mack. A new baptismal font and modifications of the main altar are also planned.

A former convent was razed and a neighboring office building purchased to make room for the parish hall and school addition. Parish offices now in the rectory will be moved to the new building, and eventually that rectory space will become guest rooms for visiting priests or seminarians stationed at the parish in the summer.

The campaign is being coordinated by Joseph Consulting of Bettendorf, Iowa, and was endorsed after a feasibility study. It is expected to continue through the summer.

“We’re trying to reach out to as many as we can,” said Msgr. Mack. “This is a diverse community,” he added, noting a large Hispanic presence as well as Congolese and Burmese parishioners.

“Come to Mass and you’ll find all God’s people there, which is good,” said Msgr. Mack, who began his second stint as pastor of Immaculate
Conception last summer. He previously served as pastor from 1991 to 1997. He also serves as pastor of parishes in Alexis and Raritan, and is chaplain of Monmouth College Newman Center.

Also endorsing the projects at the April 28 event were Joe and Amy Thompson, Juan Pinedo, Stacy Cordery, Kathryn Bennett (school principal), and John Twomey.

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