Church breaks ground on building
Parishoniers and priests alike pushed their shovels into the earth Saturday as they celebrated the ground-breaking of the new Sacred Heart Catholic Church parish center.
"Just keep on digging until we tell you to stop," quipped the Rev. Mark Goldasich, pastor of Tonganoxie's Sacred Heart Church. "Go in peace, but not before we have a hot dog and do our digging."
The Most Rev. James Keleher, archibishop of Kansas City in Kansas, said the building project is a positive sign for the church.
"The important thing is the vitality of a parish," Keleher said. "And one sign of vitality is that the religious community is growing, reaching out and expanding. A major building project calls upon the goodwill and generosity of a religious community."
Keleher said when he came to the area 10 years ago, "this was a lovely, but small, sleepy parish."
Today, the parish's membership includes 365 families.
Keleher credited the congregation's growth in part to Goldasich.
"It has Father Mark who is also responsible for calling forth the vitality of this Catholic community centered in Tonganoxie," Keleher said.
Once the digging ended, Father Mark, and the others, put their shovels aside to enjoy a picnic lunch provided by church member Paul Mast.
The new church will be constructed on U.S. Highway 24-40 just south of Washington Street.
"This is just exciting," Goldasich said. "It's the culmination of one part -- a lot of planning. I now know a lot more about door knobs and switches than I used to. It's the end of that, and it's the beginning of more room. It's exciting, it's been a long time coming."
Ron Zishka, parish council president, said the $2.1 million building is the first of three planned phases. The parish center, which will measure 13,680 square feet, will include a large room with a kitchen and religious education classrooms on the sides. Construction by the Lenexa firm, Haren Laughlin, is expected to start in mid-November. The church hopes to be moved into the new location by next August.
"We'll be able to hold masses in here until we get the church built," Zishka said.
The new church, also known as phase 2 of the parish plans, will come later.
"Hopefully, it will be about five years until we get the church built," Zishka said.
And the third phase, which Zishka said may be as far off as 20 years, will add a kindergarten through eighth-grade private school to the 17-acre parcel of ground.
Part of the financing of the parish center will be paid by church members, Zishka said.
"All the families donate over a five-year period," Zishka said. "They were asked to pledge what they thought they could afford."
Original estimates placed the pledges at less than $1 million. But church members were more generous than that.
"The people who helped us with the fund-raising thought we could get $800,000," Zishka said. "But to get $1.3 million is good, we were excited and very surprised."
The parish center will seat more church members than the old church, which is about 105 years old and seats 160, Zishka said.
"Four or five years ago it kind of reached its maximum, especially at the Christmas services and the Easter services, it was too full," Zishka said.
As to the future of the old church, there's a chance it could be offered to the Tonganoxie Historical Society to be moved to the Tonganoxie Historic Site. The site includes the old Honey Valley School and the Reno Methodist Church, both which were moved to the location, and a renovated dairy barn, now used as a museum and meeting place.
"We talked about asking the historical society and we would probably look at giving it to them since it's a 100-year-old building," Zishka said. "It's been a good church -- we've just outgrown it."