Corpus Christi Parish in Chambersburg is undertaking a building project designed to meet parishioners’ needs, and the timing couldn’t be more appropriate as Covid-19 restrictions being to ease.
Following the celebration of Mass on May 1, Bishop Gainer, Father Allan Wolfe, pastor, and members of the parish broke ground for an expanded narthex adjacent to the historic church. The project will allow for overflow seating during Mass, a space for viewings prior to funerals, and sizable restrooms.
The project, at a cost of $2.3 million, is expected to be completed in December of this year.
“This is so providential for us that this is happening at this time, not only as a parish, but in all that is going on around us,” Father Wolfe said of the project. “Our parishioners and other benefactors are making this possible right now as we prepare to come out of Covid-19 restrictions. Having gone through a year where we were sheltering in place and things weren’t the same as far as being together, this building project really provides an opportunity for us to be able to welcome people in a way we’ve never done before.”
The construction of the narthex is the third phase of a four-phase capital campaign, the result of a town-hall meeting and resulting survey of parishioners in 2015 to address challenges and concerns presented by the layout of the parish campus.
The current church was built in 1907. Over time, as a school, parish center and parking areas were added, parishioners stopped using the front doors of the church as their main entrance. Currently, they enter through side doors that lead to the inside front of the church proper.
The church is also absent of restrooms; parishioners must exit the church and walk to the rectory or school to use the facilities. And, while Corpus Christi Parish is the largest parish in Franklin County with more than 1,400 families, its church current seats 400 individuals. Overflow seating is set up in the parish center across the campus.
The narthex, which serves as a welcoming space in churches, will offer a spacious and hospitable space to address parishioner needs. Directly adjacent to the church, it will serve as an overflow seating area for Mass and as a space for viewings prior to funerals. It will also include spacious restrooms, and be built on one level, so parishioners won’t have to traverse stairs.
Parishioners are funding each of the phases of the capital campaign as it progresses, alleviating the parish from taking a loan or incurring debt.
The first phase involved a feasibility study, schematic designs, and the purchase of adjacent buildings, including the convent that was located at the site of the planned narthex. Phase 2 included demolition of the adjacent buildings and parking lot expansion.
The building of the narthex is the third phase of the project, at a cost of $2.3 million. Phase 4, which will include upgrades to the current church and landscape redesign, will commence upon completion of the narthex and once funding is secured.
“The generosity of the parishioners has enabled us to make this a reality,” Father Wolfe said. “It’s an incredible offering on the part of our parishioners, who are giving on top of everything else that needs to normally happen in a parish with a budget and normal bills. It also means we won’t be carrying debt going forward. We want our future to look in ministry and not focus on taking care of debt.”
He said the addition of the narthex is a historic moment in the 200-plus year history of the parish, and one that will serve the community and respond to parishioners’ needs.
“St. John Paul II had a beautiful phrase that he used in the Jubilee Year 2000, and that was, ‘Open wide the doors to Christ,’” Father Wolfe said. “This is what we intend to do not only for parishioners, but as we continue to embrace intentional discipleship for the building of the Kingdom.”
Learn more about Corpus Christi Parish at www.corpuschristichbgpa.org.
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness