Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 27, 2007
St. Stephen's Parish completes $1.5M, 150-seat expansion
Olds community pitched in to make church a reality
By BILL GLEN
"Olds is growing with younger people, but it's also growing with older people."
- Fr. Les Drewicki
As well, an elevator was needed to bring the handicapped and the elderly to different levels of the church.
"As part of the parish community, it's wonderful to have a facility that is so expansive to accommodate the different aspects of parish life here," Caron said. "Hopefully we will utilize all of this space to the glory of God. I hope it increases that feeling of hominess and spiritual life for all of our parishioners."
St. Stephen's was built in 1984 to comfortably fit about 350 people. But Olds is an expanding community, said Drewicki.
"Olds is growing with younger people, but it's also growing with older people. It's becoming a retirement area and we wanted to provide access to the different levels in the church for the elderly."
For almost a year, staff and parishioners had to contend with walking through one construction zone after another.
The official opening was celebrated Aug. 16, the feast day of St. Stephen of Hungary, with a Mass and social gathering.
"The place was packed," Caron said. "It was a wonderful night."
The original target date was in June, but construction hadn't reached the point to make it feasible.
"The classrooms will help the children and teachers of the catechism program."
- Fr. Les Drewicki
"When you think about all that has happened over the last few years with the concepts, drawings, fundraising and the doing, this has been an amazing project," Drewicki said.
Through various fundraising projects and donations, including a donation of nearly $13,000 following sales of a Christmas CD produced by St. Stephen's choir in 2004, the parish has collected more than $760,000.
Drewicki says the parish has agreed with the Edmonton Archdiocese to borrow up to $700,000.
The expanded classrooms in the basement will not only better serve the existing catechism and youth programs, but in 2009, Olds will have a Catholic school. Drewicki isn't certain if the school will use the classrooms.
The worship area received new carpet, paint and air conditioning.
"We had an entire wall of windows that provided a lot of natural light, but it got pretty hot," Drewicki said.
The upper balcony will handle the overflow that comes at Christmas, Easter and large funerals.
The foyer was expanded for better social interaction and for displays.
"We had a small foyer that was very crowded when people wanted to visit. People were always bumping into each other as they were coming and going," he said.
"The foyer has speakers and a glass wall looking into the worship space, so it can be used as a crying room, for example."
Drewicki says the community has donated money and volunteer hours selflessly, largely to improve the quality of life for others.
"One of the generous areas of our parishioners was to think of the staff having far better office facilities and a large foyer to meet and greet each other," he said. "The classrooms will help the children and teachers of the catechism program. It really has been a community effort.
"I'm very keyed up about this," Drewicki said. "I'm very, very proud of my people. It has been a real inspiration."
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