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.
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.”