- Associated Press - Monday, March 20, 2017

IRELAND, Ind. (AP) - After 40 years of discussion, St. Mary Catholic Church in Ireland is gearing up to build a new church.

The church announced earlier this month a capital campaign to raise a minimum of $3 million and as much as $6 million for the project and will approach church and community members about donating to the cause.

The current building was built 111 years ago, and the congregation has outgrown the space. The church has roughly 2,600 members, but can only hold 380 at a time.

Although the congregation began discussing a new building decades ago, the process didn’t pick up speed until the early 2000s when Father Donald Ackerman created the long-term planning committee.

“For years they’ve been gathering data and preparing for this,” said Father Gary Kaiser, current pastor at St. Mary.

The process gained momentum recently with town hall meetings where church members gathered to decide what they wanted their new church to look like. “Traditional” was their answer. With that in mind, Kaiser said, the most recent designs keep the exterior almost identical. On the inside, the plans call for a refurbished pulpit from another church that has closed. The pulpit will look like the original one installed in the Ireland church.

The plan is to construct the new church west of the current church and tear down the existing building once the new facility is built.

St. Mary is working with the Catholic Diocese of Evansville on the planning process and church fundraising specialists Walsh & Associates of Burnsville, Minnesota on the capital campaign. The campaign is set up in three levels - $3 million, $4.8 million and $6 million. At the lowest level, the campaign will offer seed money for the project, but not enough to break ground. At $4.8 million, the project can break ground. The diocese requires parishes to have 80 percent of a project’s cost in hand before they break ground as a good financial planning policy, and $4.8 million would meet that requirement. At $6 million, the entire project would be covered.

This is the first capital campaign St. Mary has done, Kaiser said, which gives some uncertainty about how it will go, which prompted the three giving goals.

“God willing, we will start construction (after the campaign),” Kaiser said.

The campaign is underway, and a kick-off party will be held Sunday after the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Kaiser is optimistic about the campaign. Ireland, he said, is a town that comes together to get what needs doing, done.

“We can look at what happened with the tornado,” he said. “Everybody pitches in. I am very optimistic that everyone will do their part to do what’s best for St. Mary.”

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Source: Dubois County Herald, http://bit.ly/2mzi7ga

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Information from: The Herald, http://www.dcherald.com

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