DIVINE CONSTRUCTIONTwo Vicksburg churches to begin building projects

Published 11:05 pm Friday, August 10, 2012

After nearly 10 years of planning, two of Vicksburg’s three Roman Catholic churches are seeing to it that parishioners have new places to gather for educational and social activities.

“I think it’s enormously important for the life of the parish, there’s more to being a parish than meeting only for church services,” said Monsignor Patrick Farrell, pastor of St. Paul on Crawford and Walnut streets, which is about to add its first-ever parish hall. “Any community needs a place to be able to meet and socialize.”

Construction on a $1.542 million renovation project will begin as soon as building permits are issued, said project manager Donald Roesch of Fordice Construction. He expects the project to be complete in six to seven months.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The hall will be on the top of a three-story building east of the church on Crawford. The building, occupied by Regions Bank since 1983, was bought by the church in 2010. The bank will continue to operate out of the main floors, Farrell said.

Roesch said a large part of the project will include getting the building, which was built in the 1940s, up to code. In years past, the building housed offices for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District.

“The scope of the project is to renovate the third floor into a parish hall and a couple of classroom spaces,” Roesch said. “But to do so, because it is so old, we have to upgrade the electrical service and install a sprinkler system throughout the building.”

A fire escape, kitchen and more restrooms also will be added.

Roesch said construction should not interrupt bank business.

Across town, on Fisher Ferry Road, St. Michael Catholic Church is preparing to start construction on an educational building.

“We’ve been talking about this for 10 or 15 years,” said the Rev. P.J. Curley, pastor. “This is something that’s really needed.”

Curley said the building, which will consist mostly of rooms for religious education classes, will cost about $942,400 and be built between the church sanctuary and office building.

St. Michael parishioners, who for generations worshiped in a small wooden building on South Washington Street, moved to Fisher Ferry and into a building that was dedicated in 1970. That original building has been used as a parish hall since the current sanctuary opened in about 1990.

“The classrooms we have now are small,” Curley said. “About three years ago, parishioners were given the opportunity to express their thoughts about the building, and the feeling was that we’d do better building new than repairing our old building. We’ve been working ever since.”

The project at St. Michael is two-phase, and Curley said once the educational building is finished, a new Parish Life center is next in line. When the new center is built, Curley said the current one will be razed for parking spaces.

The construction of the education building should take about nine months, Curley said, and also is awaiting permits and other paperwork.

St. Paul Catholic Church dates to 1841 and a frame building on Walnut between South and Crawford streets. A new church was built at its current sight in 1847, and that building was razed after it was damaged by the tornado that devastated much of downtown in 1953. The current church opened for worship in 1956.

Farrell said discussions for a parish hall began in the early 1990s after the Sisters of Mercy sold its complex that included a convent and school at Crawford, Cherry, Adams and Clay streets.

“In St. Paul’s earlier history, the Sisters of Mercy had St. Francis Academy and that provided a place for the parish to gather,” Farrell said. “When that sold, we lost a place to have activities.”

Parishioners since have met in a small room downstairs at the church, called Glenn Hall, and at St. Aloysius High School, on Grove Street.

“Glenn Hall can’t handle much more than 20 people comfortably; it’s simply not adequate,” Farrell said. “We did use St. Al, but because we had to go over there, things we could do were limited.”

Farrell said the new hall will be used for study groups, classes, receptions, meals for families after funerals and “all types of typical parish social activities.”

“I would think every church, every congregation in Vicksburg has a place to have activities and those kinds of things, but we don’t,” said Farrell. “That is what we’re trying to provide for our people.”

St. Paul has 647 members; St. Michael has about 450 families; and St. Mary’s Catholic Church, at Main and Second North streets, has about 130.