HUNTLEY – Inside St. Mary Catholic Church, the Rev. Steve Knox can walk freer, and breathe easier, now that an
$8 million addition that includes extra meeting space recently opened to parishioners.
The Huntley church’s new Parish Ministry Center has been two years in the making and now gives the church 33,000 square feet of additional space that Knox and other church staff have envisioned as a place where parishioners can grow their relationship with God.
“It enhances the parish life,” Knox said. “When you have spaces for people to get together, good things happen.”
The center, dedicated and blessed Saturday by Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, gives the church 17 interchangeable classrooms for its religious education program that can be converted into meeting rooms for staff, parishioners and the public.
The center includes a Parish Hall, complete with a full-service kitchen, where the church can host social gatherings, religious retreats, youth ministry events and funeral luncheons for the first time in the church’s history.
Stained-glass windows form the walls of the center’s Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, a smaller, private space where parishioners can spend solemn time with their thoughts and the Lord.
Knox and the St. Mary staff started planning designs and a fundraising campaign for the center in 2011, after seeing demand for their church grow after years of population growth throughout Huntley.
The church had gone from serving 350 households 15 years ago to serving 5,300 households today. Staff had the only existing church at their disposal, with only a handful of meeting rooms available in the basement.
The limited space forced the church in some instances to create makeshift office space.
It rented classroom space at Huntley District 158’s Marlowe Middle School for $50,000 a year, so that students from kindergarten to the seventh grade in the church’s religious education program could have adequate room.
Now the church no longer will rely on Marlowe. The added classroom space included in the center also comes equipped with the latest audio and visual technology that allows the church some extra creativity with developing the faith of the church’s youngest members.
The center also includes extra office space for administrators. The Parish Hall now will be able to handle overflow from the flood of parishioners who typically attend the popular Christmas and Easter Masses.
But Knox finds it especially a relief that the $8 million project was solely supported by parishioners, who he said greeted the project with enthusiasm.
In a wide-ranging fundraising campaign, the church collected more than $5 million in parishioner pledges. The church will continue to collect pledges and donations, as it pays down the remaining $3 million owed on the center, Knox said.
“It was all done with parishioners. We knew it was going to be challenge because of the economy,” Knox said. “If people see the need and they are supportive, they usually will step up, and they did.”