Workshops, dialogue next steps after Melrose parish unveils plans

About 450 people gathered Feb. 11 at Melrose High School to see a proposal for a new church in Melrose. An additional 250 people tuned in to the live video stream through the parish’s website (To watch the presentation, visit The presentation was also given simultaneously in Spanish at the school.

Among those on hand for the presentation were St. Mary’s pastor Father Marvin Enneking and associate pastor Father Gabriel Walz as well as architect Murray Mack of HMA Architects in St. Cloud, liturgical design consultant Ken Griesemer, the church’s building team, parish and finance council members, parish work groups and volunteers. They stayed afterward to field questions and receive feedback. Parishioners also were invited to write down concerns or call the parish office.

preliminary architectural drawing of the exterior of a new church design for St. Mary Church in Melrose. (Photos courtesy of HMA Architects)

“Many people have prayed and worked many, many, many hours putting forth their best efforts to create a sacred space that will touch the lives of all who come there,” Father Enneking said in his opening remarks. “This sacred space is centered on providing a place for prayer, a place for worship and a place to celebrate our lives together as families walking with Christ.”

Preliminary sketches for the new space suggest the building site would be located a few blocks from the existing church on ground already owned by the parish.

The proposal included options for a gathering space, worship space, fellowship area and kitchen, adoration chapel and daily Mass chapel, administrative offices, an outdoor grotto. The proposal allowed room for future expansion, including a possible rectory.

Costs for the project range from $7 million to $12 million, depending on what options parishioners choose. The parish has received insurance monies totaling $7.3 million of which $5 million has been deposited in local financial institutions. The remaining funds will be deposited when construction begins.

Kurt Schwieters, spokesperson for the building project, reminded everyone that the presentation is a preliminary draft of architectural drawings and working plans.

preliminary architectural drawing of the interior of a new church design for St. Mary Church in Melrose. (Photos courtesy of HMA Architects)

“This is a work in progress and will continue to evolve,” he said. “One of our goals is to give background information, liturgical reasoning and how our Catholic faith are affecting and impacting the planning of our new church so that it better serves the needs of current parishioners and the [generations] who follow us.

“Through hope, fellowship and prayer, we all can continue on our journey together to create and build a wonderful and beautiful new church in which to worship God and celebrate parish life,” he said.

Though there seems to be optimism about the possibility of a new building, still others are hoping for restoration of the existing church structure. A group of parishioners and community members who are seeking full restoration of the church formed a nonprofit organization,

“Friends to Restore St. Mary’s, LLC.” The group filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of St. Cloud in August to prevent destruction of the church, which was heavily damaged by fire in March 2016.

The cause of the fire was determined to be arson and the investigation is ongoing. The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office was recently asked to review the case.

Parish workshops

At the presentation, attendees and online viewers were invited to provide feedback and ask questions. Since the presentation, Schwieters said parish leaders and volunteers have responded to all feedback forms and calls to the parish.

“The ideas presented in these conversations are being brought forward with our church building team and parish council,” he said. “The feedback from this presentation has been very positive.

We are moving forward with enthusiasm and energy in our parish. We, as a parish council and church building team, are very sensitive to the deep feelings for our existing structure and hope to bring aspects of our past into the design plans.”

Liturgical design consultant Ken Griesemer has been working closely with the community and plans to offer two or three pairs of evening workshops in which parishioners can discuss in detail liturgical aspects of the church design.

“Our plan is to organize a series of workshops that would focus on the current design and offer insights into the ‘why’ behind what we are doing,” Griesemer said. “These sessions, which are still being planned, would focus on various topics of liturgical design and how we use and experience our sacred buildings. The current architectural design will be the backdrop for the discussions, and we hope to gain additional feedback to help guide the ongoing process.

“The church, our Catholic tradition and the norms of our liturgical celebrations have so much to offer the design process, and we plan to ‘break open’ the design in light of the wisdom and beauty of Roman Catholic liturgy and theology. The upcoming workshops could be described — using a term from RCIA — as a ‘mystagogical’ process of looking more deeply into what is being created,” he said.

Exploring liturgy

Chris Calderone, director of liturgy and music for the One in Faith community, introduced a new section in the parish bulletin, which will appear almost every week.

“Both Father Marv and I discussed the importance of liturgy as the ‘source and summit’ of parish life,” Calderone said. “We agree that liturgy should be a focal point in the process of building a new church, and we decided that regular communication about liturgical topics might inspire parishioners to grow in their understanding of what we do in church and why. And so, by exploring an area of a parish’s liturgical life each week, I hope to dialogue with the community, both by teaching and learning.”

Calderone said the topic of liturgy can “come across as academic and inaccessible — much like the technical details of church architecture and design.”

“However, liturgy requires our full, active and conscious participation. Likewise, building a new church requires the participation and input of the faith community because the church should in turn support the community,” he said.

“A parish should not serve the church building. Rather, a church building should serve the parish. It does this by facilitating the parish mission and vision, by inspiring worship and prayer, by housing the sacramental life of the people, by opening its doors to welcome the stranger and by drawing people closer to God.

“Many decisions about the new church, from the color of the walls right up to the design of the altar, can and should be made by the community,” he said. “To take ownership of such decisions, the community must understand how such decisions affect the liturgies that will be celebrated in the new church. By learning about liturgy, we as a parish are challenged to become active participants in our sacramental life, and we take ownership in creating a church building and facilities that support our life and mission as members of the Body of Christ.”

Calderone feels that this is a potential way to encourage dialogue and build bridges.

“I hope that people talk about the topics presented in this column,” he said. “I hope that I can learn from many different parishioners what is meaningful and important to each of them in regard to these topics. I hope that we can bring all of this to the table when we make decisions about the various liturgical components of our new church.

“Finally,” he added, “I hope that our dialogue inspires creativity and imagination as we build a new church to serve the faith community of St. Mary’s Parish for generations to come.”

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