Bishop Banks blesses Gillett church’s new additions

Bequest from parishioner, donations from parishioners fund renovation at St. John

GILLETT — Inspired by a generous gift from a cherished parishioner, members of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Gillett recently completed work on a new gathering space and drive-up carport.

To celebrate the renovation, the parish gathered Sunday, Feb. 7, for a special blessing from Bishop Emeritus Robert Banks and a potluck meal following Mass.

Bishop Emeritus Robert Banks, above, presides at Mass Feb. 7 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Gillett. He joined the parish for a blessing of their new church gathering space and carport. Below, Bishop Banks blesses the new gathering space while Sr. Marla Clerx, pastoral leader at St. John, and parishioners look on. (Tom Beschta | For The Compass)

“People made comments about how beautiful the space is and how it is just what we needed,” said Sr. Marla Clercx, pastoral leader at St. John. “This has been a great community builder for us.”

Funding for the renovation started with a donation from Ann Horick, who remembered St. John Parish in her will. Horick, who passed away in September 2012, requested that the donation be used for a major building project.

“I would say Ann was one of the pillars of the community for many years,” said Sr. Marla, a member of A New Genesis religious community. “She was a very generous woman, both with her finances and her time. She really made this parish her home.”

The parish decided to use the donation to expand its narrow entryway into a gathering space and to add a carport to allow parishioners easy access to the church. Construction began in September 2015 and was finished about three weeks ago.

To help raise the rest of the money for the project, the parish held a pledge drive and Sr. Marla said the response was overwhelming.

“One of the things that just amazed us is that we have had 86 percent of our people give something to the project,” Sr. Marla said. “I am just so proud of everyone.”

The new gathering place will serve as an area for people to meet after Mass and to accommodate events such as weddings and funeral wakes. The carport, which includes a roof, will help those who used to struggle with the long walk to the entrance.

“On a given weekend, people now hang around and visit, because they are not bumping elbows and they don’t have to go outside in the cold,” Sr. Marla said. “This has just been an amazing thing.”

Sr. Marla said that the visit and blessing by Bishop Banks made the day even more special. About 110 people stayed after Mass for the potluck to celebrate. She added it was people like Horick who made the renovation possible.

“Ann just loved this parish,” Sr. Marla said. “I just can’t say enough about what a joy-filled celebration it was for us.”