As the largest parish in the Archdiocese of St. Louis with more than 5,300 registered households, it's hard to imagine that St. Joseph in Cottleville doesn't have a preschool. Or a senior ministry. Or a space to hold pancake breakfasts after Mass.
Yet all of the above is true — but not for much longer.
It isn't that the parish didn't want these things. It's just that there wasn't enough room for the expansive community, explained pastor Msgr. James Callahan. That's all changing, thanks to a new parish hall that opened in January, part of which was funded by pledges received from the Beyond Sunday campaign.
Archbishop Robert Carlson will join the community for a Mass and dedication of the new hall at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 3.
Construction on 27,000-square-foot building, located on the northern edge of the campus, began in August of 2016 and was completed in November 2017. The two-story building includes a large meeting area that seats over 1,000 people and a commercial kitchen, an expanded space for the Life Teen youth ministry program and a child-care room. The preschool, which will open in August for 3- and 4-year-olds, includes four classrooms with a maximum capacity of 120 students. Spaces are filling quickly.
The parish sought suggestions for how best use the space and looked at other churches for inspiration, including Calvary Church on Mid Rivers Mall Drive. "I can't remember if it was late morning or early afternoon, but the place was just packed with adults and children," Msgr. Callahan recalled. "As I was walking through there, I said, 'This is what I want for our new parish hall.' We want it to be a welcoming place, something that will help people to connect with one another."
The total cost of the project is $7.5 million. The parish is using the $1.2 million it has received back from its pledges to the Beyond Sunday campaign to help pay off a $5 million loan it took out from the archdiocese. Msgr. Callahan noted that cash flow and parish savings also are helping relieve the debt, which is expected to be paid off in the next five years.
As of mid-February, the parish has pledged $3,047,800 to Beyond Sunday, going just over its campaign goal of $3,015,000. As part of the campaign, which is administered by The Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri, each parish receives 40 percent of parishioners' pledges to use for its own needs, such as facility upgrades, ministry improvements and more. The other 60 percent of a parish's pledges go into the foundation's Education Fund for tuition assistance and grants for education programs.
Parish groups already have been taking full advantage of the space since it opened. The first major event was a trivia night in January sponsored by the Men's Club. Other activities have included a women's day of recollection and a mothers' Bible study group. Msgr. Callahan said he is looking forward to hosting a parish ministry fair and what is sure to be many pancake breakfasts after Masses. Other plans in the works include a seniors' ministry and outreach to young adults.
The youth ministry program has more than doubled its space in the new hall, and already teens are making it an after-school hangout for homework and socialization, said youth minister Danny Zink. There are about 80 teens that regularly come for twice-weekly gatherings, and about 150 who participate in the summer Christ Power service retreat. The parish also has an Edge ministry for teens in junior high.
With bright colors, comfortable furniture and plenty of room to spread out, "it's really a home away from home," Zink said. "Giving them a space like this is a huge asset, and it makes it their own. And eventually that encourages better participation in the parish."