Our Lady of Lourdes breaks ground for expansion

Parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Springfield look over the plans for the expansion of the church. A groundbreaking ceremony for the project was held Wednesday, April 28. Construction, which is expected to take 12-14 weeks, is scheduled to begin on Monday, May 3. Photo by Andy Telli

Cloudy skies and a smattering of rain couldn’t dampen the spirit at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Springfield as parishioners gathered on the evening of Wednesday, April 28, to break ground for an expansion of the church, the first in 59 years.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Father Anthony Lopez, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Construction is scheduled to begin on Monday, May 3. The expansion will include extending of the front of the church to make room for a narthex, restrooms, additional seating, a new cry room, and a bride and groom ready room for wedding parties. The entrance into the church will also be reconfigured.

John F. Werne III of Ashland City is the architect for the project, and Five Star Building Group of Springfield is the contractor.

The project is expected to cost $442,000 and take 12-14 weeks to complete, said Mark Kuzma, chair of the Finance Committee at the parish.

“It means a lot that the parish could come together and support this,” said David Johnson, Parish Council president. “It’s something the parish has wanted and talked about doing for 10 years.”

The parish was able to move forward with the project, clearing several hurdles over the years, including the pandemic, Johnson said. 

“It’s a project of patience and perseverance,” he said. 

Parishioners gather with Father Anthony Lopez, right, the pastor, and Deacon Mike Morris in front of the church after a Mass to celebrate the groundbreaking. Photo is courtesy of Sean Jones

Although 2020 was a difficult year financially because of lower collections when Mass attendance was limited, the parish was able to move forward with a fundraising campaign that has raised $88,300 to date and is continuing toward its goal of $150,000.

“We came back strong with grace bestowed on us by Our Lady,” Johnson said.

The makeup of the parish has been evolving in recent years. The Anglo community in the parish includes a large number of retired people, and the Hispanic community has been growing dramatically, Kuzma said. In addition to Masses in English at 5 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Sundays, Our Lady of Lourdes offers two Masses in Spanish each Sunday, at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., that both draw large crowds, he said.

For the expansion project, the whole parish rallied to the cause and contributed to the fundraising effort, said Kuzma, who has been a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes for 11 years.

The parish will also use money from its savings to help pay for the project and it has received a $160,000 grant from the Diocese of Nashville, Kuzma said.

Bishop J. Mark Spalding announced the grant to the parish in February. “The bishop was great,” Johnson said. “He gave us what we asked for in matching funds and a little bit more for pews. We were like, ‘This is meant to be.’”

One of the biggest improvements will be the addition of women’s and men’s restrooms to the church. “We were one of the few parishes in the Nashville Diocese that did not have a bathroom in the church,” Kuzma said.

Parishioners had to leave the church and cross the parking lot to the parish hall behind the church if they had to use the restroom during Mass.

“It’s a big inconvenience,” Johnson said. “Spiritually, you don’t want them to miss that much Mass.”

Currently, the narthex is a small room at the entrance of the church that can’t hold more than five or six people comfortably. With the new narthex, people will have room to mingle and talk after Mass, Kuzma said. “The narthex going forward will be a gathering place for people.”

The cry room will no longer have a window to look into the church but will have television monitors for people to watch Mass, Kuzma said. 

The addition of a bride/groom ready room will mean the parish will have more weddings, he added.

Currently the church can hold 300 people, Kuzma said. The expansion will include seating for 40 to 45 more people, he said.

“It means this church will grow,” Kuzma said of the expansion.

During a reception in the parish hall following the groundbreaking, Father Lopez praised the work of Kuzma and Johnson in shepherding the expansion effort.

“These men are responsible for getting us where we’ve gotten,” Father Lopez said. “We appreciate these two gentlemen more than we can say.”

“We would not be here either if not for two ladies,” he added, praising the contributions of Mandee Johnson, the parish office manager, and Jennifer Beard, the director of religious education.

“We’re just so grateful to God for these people who give selflessly to make sure we honor Mary, patroness of our parish, and glorify God in all things,” Father Lopez said.

He also credited the success of the project to the intercession of Mary. “The parish is dedicated to Mary. It belongs to her,” he said during his homily for the Mass that was celebrated before the groundbreaking. “It’s through her intercession that we’ve been able to come so far.”

Charities’ Pathways to Possibilities campaign still accepting donations

This year, Catholic Charities expanded the Pathways to Possibilities fundraiser into a week-long virtual event to share its mission and raise vital funds. It took place April 12-16 and raised $166,000 during that time. 

Catholic Charities has now shifted the event into a longer campaign and is accepting donations through the end of the fiscal year, June 30, through the site https://cctenn.org/pathways/.  

“The need for services increased by 50 percent last year,” according to Judy Orr, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Nashville. In 2020, the social service arm of the diocese responded to multiple disasters, including the March 3 tornado, the economic fallout of the pandemic, and the Dec. 25 bombing in downtown Nashville, in addition to offering all its regular services like school counseling, refugee support, and community food programs. 

With the increased demand for services comes a need for increased donations to support the breadth of work that Catholic Charities does. The goal for this year’s Pathways to Possibilities was to raise $200,000, according to Orr.

“I fully expect we will achieve that number,” said Gene Gillespie, Catholic Charities’ director of development. “We’re tracking very positively.”

In addition to individual donors, Catholic Charities got a big boost from corporate sponsors this year, including the presenting sponsor, the First Horizon Bank Foundation, which donated $30,000. 

Outside of the government, Catholic Charities is the largest provider of social services in Middle Tennessee. With a 59-year history and such a broad scope of services, Catholic Charities doesn’t have a niche focus like many other local non-profits.

This makes it an appealing cause for corporate donors, and Gillespie is working hard to build more relationships with these major donors as Pathways to Possibilities continues. 

“This is a growing initiative for Catholic Charities,” he said, “to align with our corporate sponsors and engage their employees in the work we do, as it also supports their philanthropic vision and commitment to the community.”

As more corporations look to make an impact in their communities, Catholic Charities is a natural partner, Gillespie said, with its workforce development programs, active presence in minority communities, and support for basic needs like housing and food security. 

Pathways to Possibilities is “really about awareness building and that starts with telling stories of the people we serve,” said Orr. 

She encourages people to visit Catholic Charities’ designated Pathways to Possibilities web page, where videos from each day of the virtual fundraiser will remain available to view, including a mini-documentary telling the stories of a tornado survivor, a refugee family, and a man who was directly impacted by both the Christmas day explosion and COVID-19.

“We have some amazing stories there,” Orr said. 

She said that donations in any amount are welcome, and are considered unrestricted dollars, “that help fill in the gaps that some of our other funding won’t cover. This is critical for the work we’re doing.”