- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - Robert Cowles is on the design team to work on ideas for the new Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church coming to Highland Drive, but what he didn’t know is his grandfather was one of five or six men responsible for designing the church in downtown.

“I had no idea, I didn’t even realize it until I started doing some more digging into the church’s history,” Cowles told The Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/1PtrFPX ). He serves as the Blessed Sacrament Church historian.

Cowles said the church is in the process of developing a master plan for the new church coming to the same property as the Blessed Sacrament Catholic School, 1105 E. Highland Drive. He said the actual design is not formed yet, but they’ve been working to come up with some ideas.

“What we’re planning on doing is taking a lot of the church fixtures and windows that have stained glass and the stations of the cross with us to be utilized in the new church,” Cowles said. “Older parishioners remember this church growing up, and it means a whole lot to them. Some even had families who helped build this church, so they have a whole lot of connection.”

Cowles said because so many of the older parishioners have these memories and deep connection, the design team looks at it as the more they can take to the new church, the easier the transition will be for them.

“We’re trying to keep as much of the ambiance as possible,” Cowles said. “The older parishioners have older family history and more of a hands-on history, but that’s the transition of anything. Any kind of major transition will take adjusting, it’s just the natural concern that comes along with it. But it’s time, it’s time to look (to) the future.”

The new building will have a traditional shape, similar to the current building. Cowles said the design team wants the new church to be closer to the street so when people drive by they’ll see the design and think, “Now that’s a Catholic church.”

Cowles said the decision to move is up to Bishop Anthony Taylor because the property is his and the deed is in his name. He said the bishop wants the church to be closer to the school.

“We will probably be using the school building for some joint activities, and there are plans to expand the room they use for a cafeteria now and use that hall to replace the hall we’re going to be losing,” Cowles said. “So that’s all in the works and on a list of things we need to do to be fully involved.”

Cowles said the date to actually start tearing down the downtown church on Church Street has not been set, but they have to be out by Dec. 31, 2017.

“There have been some people with concerns, they’ll ask ‘Well why can’t we just fix this one?’ And the answer to that in part is the cost it will take to upkeep such an old building,” Cowles said. “In the year 2033 this building will be 100 years old.”

The current building was sold to St. Bernards. This will be the last year everyone will be in the current location, according to Cowles. He said he will be recording a lot of the upcoming services, such as the Holy Week services, since this year will be the last time the current building will host it.

“Our job is to maintain as much of the church as I can and take its history with us into the future,” Cowles said. “That way, the younger kids can have the emotional ties as much as the older generations do. We want this to be as much their church as it is ours.”

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com

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