St. Mary Catholic Church will commemorate several new major renovations Dec. 7 with a “Grand Celebration” to recognize the donors, campaign volunteers, building committee members and parishioners who made the restorations possible.
According to Marcelle Naman, director of development at St. Mary Parish, the renovations were brought to life through a capital campaign called “Our Faith, Our Hope, Our Future.” Founded in 2009, the campaign has raised more than $2 million, allowing for $1.2 million to be spent on renovations, she said.
“We were more interested than anything in preserving our church,” Naman said.
Naman added that all funds collected through the campaign came from donations made by individuals and foundations, but noted the families who pledged five-year plans and despite any obstacles, always found a way to make monthly contributions from their bank accounts.
“They love the parish so much,” she said. “It’s a very diverse parish. You have all walks here. So, to think that people you know are truly sacrificial with their giving is just unbelievable.”
But it wasn’t just parishioners and Catholics who donated to the church, Naman said.
“It was a good representation of Mobile. It was meaningful beyond the boundaries of the parish,” she said.
The latest and one of the costliest renovations to the church included roof repairs and the replacement of the current ceiling tiles with new acoustic ceiling tiles by Kittrell Acoustics, Inc. and Energy Solutions.
Though completely replaced after Hurricane Frederic, the church’s roof and ceiling had only seen “patchwork” repairs since the storm hit in 1979, Naman said.
“The ceiling was falling apart … it was in disrepair. It didn’t match,” she said.
According to Naman, other recent renovations included a new bridal entrance and powder room, a new reconciliation room and existing restroom renovations all made by Stirling Constractors, Inc. Renovations were also done by Lathan Company to restore St. Mary’s bell tower, which Naman said was “in danger” and to conduct a complete repair of all stained-glass windows and a roof replacement, sealing and exterior painting.
Parish volunteers, led by parishioner Martha Collier, recovered the church kneelers, which were also in need of repairs but could not be included in the renovation budget, Naman said.
St. Mary Parishioner Beau Baggett of R.J. Baggett, Inc. served as the general contractor over the renovations and the cleaning of the church including reinstalling pews and fixtures was done by Kevin Muscat of Felder Services.
With initial renovations beginning about two years ago, Naman said the final phase of construction started last summer and wrapped up about a week ago.
Naman also cited another capital campaign from 2000 to 2005, entitled “Celebrating the Past, Building the Future,” which raised $1.4 million and allowed for restoration of the church’s historic pipe organ, choir loft and the Sisters of Mercy building.
“Between two capital campaigns, you can say in a nutshell that we have restored our building,” she said.
During that first campaign, the parish was also able to restore the first and second floor of the Sisters of Mercy Building to serve their preschool, reception rooms and administrative offices, Naman said. Additionally, third floor renovations allowed the addition of six more classrooms in 2004.
Naman said the school had 140 students enrolled and was “in great need of attention and growth” when she first came to the parish 19 years ago.
The enrollment at St. Mary’s Catholic School is now at 510 students, she said.
“The church [had] kind of put themselves aside to make sure the needs of the school were met,” she said. “Now it’s time to turn attention to the church.”
Naman said there are still more things to be done at the church like replacing and rebuilding older doors, landscaping and eventually providing the school with a new gym.
“There’s always a wish list,” she said.
St. Mary’s Campaign Building Committee, composed of parish volunteers, has served as the stewards of campaign funds and managers of campaign projects, Naman said. Building Committee members who have worked on the most recent projects: Ben Cummings, Jim Backes, Beverly Finkbohner, Linyer Zieman, Jim Druhan, Martha Collier, Millie Dixon, Mary Carroll, Chris Carroll, Cindy Klotz, Gina Finnegan, Lori Millsap, Romie Perez, Marcelle Naman, Rev. Msgr. Peter J. Cunningham, Rev. Msgr. G. Warren Wall and Deacon Ernest Johnson.
“The church is so historical for Mobile and so meaningful for all of us … it’s a very special place,” Naman said.
The celebration event Dec. 7 begins with 9 a.m. Mass, followed by a procession led by Mobile’s Excelsior Band to the Sisters of Mercy Building for a reception filled with food, fellowship and music.
“This is a party and a celebration,” Naman said. “We want everyone to come.”