Frequently Asked Questions About the Proposed Building Plan

08-28-2016This Week in Vidi DominumFr. Will Schmid

I thought the original plan was to build a brand new church?

Yes, the original plan developed in 2006 was to build a brand new 1800 seat church on the south side of the property facing Williams Field Road. The estimated cost of a new church of that size is approximately $10 million. In addition, the original plan was that the current hall would be renovated to include the official parish hall (smaller than the one we are proposing) and a very small basketball court/cafeteria for the future school. The cost of such renovations to the existing building would be between $1 and $2 million. Thus, if we were to follow the original plan, we would be looking at an overall $11-12 million campus expansion. What we are proposing is between $6 and $8 million. As mentioned in the 6 fact sheet, we believe our proposed plan is more feasible and fiscally responsible. To complete a $12 million campaign would likely involve borrowing a large sum of money, incurring a large debt for many decades and very likely requiring future monthly debt reduction collections, which are not typically all that successful.

In addition, it is important for us to remember that we already have debt. In 2010, we took out a bond loan of $4.1 million at a 7% interest rate to pay for the existing building. Last year, we were able to refinance the loan and reduce the interest rate to 4.1%. This refinanced loan is now saving us nearly $100k per year. As of September 1, 2016, our remaining debt will be $2.99 million.

Who have you consulted in making these plans?

Great question! In addition to the parish staff, pastoral council, and parish finance council, I have consulted with Bishop Olmsted, the Diocese of Phoenix Buildings and Properties Office, other pastors who have recently built churches or are currently working on building new churches, and various architects.

Why did you wait so long to present this proposal?

Since this is a complex plan, there was a lot of information that needed to be acquired. Discussions with the Diocesan Buildings and Properties Office were absolutely essential. We needed to know if it was even possible to renovate the existing building to transform it into a beautiful church. Schematics of the building needed to be reviewed. Architectural drawings needed to be rendered. Estimated costs needed to be analyzed. The master site plan needed to be revisited. The Bishop himself and several of his advisors needed time to review the plans and give feedback. Most importantly, prayer and discernment needed to take place before reaching the point that we felt comfortable to present it to the entire community.

Will the new Church be large enough?

Yes, the new church will hold nearly 1300 people. We currently seat just under 1000. In fact, as the town of Gilbert grows in population, the Diocese of Phoenix continues to make tentative plans for more parishes (one potentially to the east and one potentially to the south of our parish). If new parishes are established, they will reduce the future size of our parish population.

What will we do for Sunday Mass when we start working on renovating the church?

The beauty of this proposed renovation plan is that it can be accomplished in stages so that we can continue to use the worship space for Masses. We are anticipating that the only time we will need to move out of the church for Sundays is when they install the tile flooring and pews. While this is happening (which will be toward the end of the renovation process), we will likely hold Masses in the new hall with some additional Sunday Masses.

Are the artistic renderings of the church that we see on the fact sheet finalized?

No. There is more work to be done here, which will take time to discern. The sketches on the fact sheet give us an idea of the kind of architectural design that will allow our renovated church to look beautiful. As you may already know, there are many styles of Catholic Church architecture: Romanesque, Gothic, Italian Renaissance, Baroque, and Spanish Mission to name a few. We needed to get a feel of the kind of style that best compliments the existing structure of the building. Now that we have an idea of what that looks like, we can begin to work on sacred art that will compliment it. Remember, we are proposing a multi-million dollar renovation. The inside of the renovated church will look and feel drastically different, while at the same time complimenting the bone structure of the existing building.

What about the future school?

Another great question! Our proposed plan strategically puts us in a position to build our school faster than the original plan. The proposed new hall with classrooms would eventually be a shared building with our future school, putting us in a position to have classrooms and a cafeteria available when we are ready to move forward. Schools are usually built a few grades at a time with regular expansions until the school has reached its maximum capacity. The proposed plan puts us in a good position to launch the school.

In addition, the reworking of the master site plan to move the future school closer to Williams Field Road is of great benefit to the school. Particularly, it moves the day-to-day traffic away from the neighborhood and gives the school greater roadside exposure.

Is it true we are building a new rectory? How does a new rectory fit into the proposed plan?

Yes, we are building a new rectory. The rectory is the house where the priests live. Currently, the priests of St. Mary Magdalene live in a small single family home in the neighborhood across from the parish. When this home was purchased, St. Mary Magdalene was a quarter of its current size and had only one assigned priest. Now, St. Mary Magdalene has three full-time priests and one in residence. Needless to say, a new rectory is needed.

For the past several years, I have been watching the housing market in the neighborhood with the intent of purchasing a new rectory. In the past four years, only two homes have entered the market that could have worked. One was simply too much money, and the other needed serious repairs (which would have added too many expenses). At the recommendation of the parish finance committee, I researched the cost of building a new rectory on site and discovered that it was less expensive than purchasing a new home. In addition, the selling of our current home after the completion of the new rectory would recoup approximately 2/3 of what we would spend on building a new one. Since we already have the money saved to build a new rectory, we have begun plans (independent from this proposed plan) to build one. Once those plans are finalized and the new rectory is built, we will sell the current house and put that money into the building fund toward the proposed parish expansion plan.

The construction of the new rectory will not interfere with the current proposed plan. In fact, the new rectory will be a great benefit to our parish. The new rectory will allow St. Mary Magdalene parish to host discernment internships (young men discerning priesthood), summer seminarians, and visiting priests.