At Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in University City, the interior of the church is spiffy, the school is modernized and expanded, and a new Parish Commons is bringing people together as never before.
It’s a turnaround literally and figuratively, with the parking lot — much larger now — moved along Forsyth Boulevard where apartments were previously and a new, more secure school entrance added alongside the Parish Commons.
“Everything is new, clean and gorgeous,” said Joyce Walsh, a parishioner who helped with the project, which added 12,813 square feet of interior space.
More than six years ago, about 18 months before Msgr. Richard Hanneke arrived as pastor, the parish council and previous pastor began a strategic planning process that led to an effort to “renew, refresh and renovate” the 100-year-old parish physically and spiritually.
Msgr. Hanneke praised the building committee and the foresight of parish leaders to purchase adjacent property. The extra gathering space and universal access to the buildings were priorities, he added. An elevator was added to the school building.
The renovation of the school built in 1963 added four new classrooms, new floors, a new fire/security system, new lighting, modifications in technology and new bathrooms. Our Lady of Lourdes School maintains an enrollment of about 225, now with room for an additional 25 or so students.
Among the features of the school is an academic enrichment middle school class in which students are connected with outside experts such as a beekeeper and biologist. It challenges students as self-directed learners, exploring topics of interest such as whether the tail wing of a plane can be redesigned to make it more aerodynamic, what type of food was served at the 1904 World’s Fair, how venom is used in medicine, how to run a nonprofit and more. A student who learned about nonprofits ran a bakery and raised $800 for a charity.
Refurbishing of the interior of the church included sanding and refinishing the floors and the pews, grinding the sanctuary floor, repairing damaged plaster and installing a new HVAC system. A courtyard was added and playground equipment enhanced, just one of many ways the parish is relating to young families in the area.
While the physical changes are important, the planning also focused on the spiritual life of the parish. That’s led to an emphasis on evangelization, Msgr. Hanneke said.
Walsh said that “the building is the most obvious change because you can see it,” but the effort is much deeper, with all areas of the parish undergoing a review.
The parish social concerns committee is among the more active parts of the parish, including a partnership with St. Augustine Parish and the St. Augustine-Wellston Center in an economically stressed area of St. Louis.
Service Saturdays sponsored by the committee involve parishioners in service work, from home repairs and yard cleanup for individuals to larger projects such as one Sept. 14 at East Side Heart & Home in East St. Louis, Ill.
Our Lady of Lourdes parishioners are called to live stewardship as a way of life involving prayer, participation and generosity, Msgr. Hanneke said.
>> Community of believers
Msgr. Richard Hanneke, pastor of
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, noted that a parish renewal effort also
focused on spiritual aspects. He wrote in the parish bulletin that Jesus
“also calls us to deeper holiness within a community of believers. We
are called to walk with each other on this faith journey. This is what a
Catholic community, a parish is all about. We gather in so many ways;
socially, athletically, academically.”
Our Lady of Lourdes is
“when we gather eucharistically around the table of the Lord,” Msgr.
Hanneke wrote. “In celebrating the routine and ritual of the Eucharist,
we grow into the image and likeness of Christ. Far from the Eucharist
being an ‘obligation,’ it becomes a necessity, discovering the love God
has for me in Christ Jesus. If Mass has not been a part of your
spiritual journey, today is the best time to start. Please invite your
neighbors to join you. See you in church.”
>> On the calendar
At Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 7148 Forsyth Blvd., upcoming events include:
Sunday, Sept. 15: Open house and blessing of the new Parish Commons after the 11 a.m. Mass
Thursday, Sept. 19: Presentation by John O’Leary, author of “On Fire,” at 7:30 p.m. in the church, with refreshments following in the Commons
Saturday, Sept. 21: Open house for alumni and freiends in the Commons following the 5 p.m. Mass