According to Norbertine Fr. Dane Radecki, pastor of St. Agnes, updates to the church worship space also bring the church into conformity with directives issued by Bishop Ricken last January.
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But what most longtime parishioners will immediately notice about the renovated church is a new wall that separates the worship area and the new gathering area.
“I would say the biggest (difference) is the building of this wall,” said Fr. Radecki. “The original plan was to add on a gathering space to the church, but we had 1,300 (seating capacity) and except for Christmas and Easter, we really never used that much of the church.”
Instead of building an addition to the church, he continued, “we reduced our seating capacity to 900 and carved out a space within the existing walls to create a gathering space and a worship space. That’s a huge change.”
Among the updates aimed at elderly parishioners and those with disabilities:
• A hearing loop system that allows people with hearing aids to directly receive sound from the church’s PA system in their own hearing aids.
• Steps at the north entrance were removed and replaced with a concrete ramp.
• A push-button door opener at the church’s main east entrance allowing the elderly and disabled an easier entry into the church.
• A new ramp along the west wall leading up to the sanctuary.
• A handicap accessible bathroom in the gathering area’s east entrance.
“This church has always been a church of hospitality, especially for those who struggled with walking,” said Fr. Radecki. “Obviously as a one-story building with no steps on one side, access was always a positive.”
Fr. Radecki, who has been pastor of St. Agnes for one year, said remodeling plans have been discussed for several years. Initial plans had included adding space for a social hall, parish offices and a youth center to the church. “That plan was in the viciinity of $5.8 million.”
After consultation with the parish finance and pastoral councils, he said the parish decided to scale back its plans and remodel existing space. “So we began to assess what we wanted to do with the interior of the church and what the costs would be,” he noted. “As a result, we came up with a plan (costing) about $1.75 million.”
The diocese approved renovation plans last spring and construction began in May. Over the past three months, Masses have been celebrated at the parish school’s cafeteria. “That is where Masses took place for the first 20-something years of this parish, before they built this church in 1973,” said Fr. Radecki.
The parish is using revenue it received from the diocesan Advancing the Mission campaign to fund the project. The capital stewardship campaign, initiated by former Green Bay Bishop David Zubik, allowed parishes to retain 50 percent of the donations collected.
“We have probably about $350,000 to go,” said Fr. Radecki. “We hope to complete the fund-raising sometime this fall or very close to that.”
Last January, Bishop Ricken distributed a document to pastors and parish directors outlining revisions in the upcoming Roman Missal. In addition to changes in the Mass, requirements for the worship environment were also included.
The updates at St. Agnes will bring the church into compliance with Bishop Ricken’s directives. These include: new pews with kneelers and placement of the tabernacle in the remodeled sanctuary behind a reredos wall, an ornamental partition wall behind the altar.
Fr. Radecki said the addition of kneelers had been in the works prior to Bishop Ricken’s request. The new pews match the church’s circular design and in designated areas allow space for wheelchairs and walkers.
The tabernacle, where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, was previously located in an alcove next to the sanctuary, said Fr. Radecki. “The sanctuary is a huge space and so we have moved the tabernacle from that alcove to the center” of the santuary. “In order to do that, we built this reredos wall and suspended a new crucifix — under which the tabernacle will be placed — as a central, integrated point.”
Behind the reredos wall, a private area for prayer was constructed.
Other updates to the liturgical environment are a permanent baptismal font and stations of the cross.
“The baptismal font at the entry point to the church is a major new addition,” said Fr. Radecki. “It integrates not only the bowl for the water, but also the paschal candle and the holy oil ambry,” all of which symbolize entry into Christian life.
Other notable updates include an expanded bride’s dressing room, video screens above the sanctuary, security cameras at all church entries and an electronic message board in the gathering space.
“We’re integrating more technology,” noted Fr. Radecki, adding that the church lighting can all be controlled from an iPad.