Now as then, building projects have created cramped conditions at St. Joseph Parish in Imperial.
Back then, in August 1999, the parish office was in the principal’s office at the new school building, with the principal taking up residence in the hallway. Additionally, then-pastor Father Andrew Sigmund used the school nurse’s office as his working space.
Similarly, the parish office today has been crammed into the parish’s one meeting room and youth ministry space; nine people, including pastor Father Dan Shaughnessy, work in tight quarters.
But by next June, the cramped conditions will be a thing of the past.
On Aug. 26, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson joined Father Shaughnessy, Father Sigmund and parish leaders to officially break ground on the building to house the parish hall and offices. The building will complete the work begun by Father Sigmund 25 years ago with the first capital campaign for relocating the parish 1.5 miles west to Imperial from Kimmswick.
“He really saw an immense opportunity and had the vision to start what we’ve got here today and who we are as a parish family,” Father Shaughnessy told parishioners at the groundbreaking ceremony.
Whereas the parish’s former property in Kimmswick totaled just 2.7 acres, the campus just off Interstate 55 is 19.5 acres, with numerous building expansions over the past 20 years. From 1992 to 2005, Father Sigmund oversaw two major capital campaigns and managed numerous building projects, including large ones for the church, school and school addition, plus smaller ones for the old parish offices, a food pantry and the rectory’s initial renovation in 2001.
“He got a tremendous amount done to meet the parish’s needs,” Father Shaughnessy said.
Likewise, the new building will meet the needs of a vibrant parish loaded with young families and children. In addition to the parish offices, the 16,000-square-foot building will have a versatile gathering space (for parish faith and fellowship events) that can be converted into five meeting rooms for parish organizations, plus a commercial kitchen, with a quarter-mile walking track and playground outside.
The building serves a greater purpose as well. With the large gathering area able to seat 500, the commercial kitchen and easy access to/from I-55, the parish hall at St. Joseph becomes a go-to venue in the area for wedding receptions or other large gatherings.
The building not only meets the parish’s needs but also is “for the greater Jefferson County community and for the whole archdiocese,” said Father Shaughnessy, adding that it “will be used to evangelize and to attract people from different faith backgrounds to the Catholic Church.”
Father Shaughnessy credited and thanked Archbishop Carlson for approving the capital campaign for funding the projects, which ran concurrently with the parish’s Beyond Sunday campaign for the Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri. He also praised the archbishop for mentoring him as a seminarian and after ordination in 2012.
For Father Shaughnessy, 47, planning the new building drew on his skills as an architect, his profession for 10 years before entering Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in 2006 at age 35. But he also saw God’s providence in going ahead with the final projects to complete Father Sigmund’s vision.
In addition to the new building, the rectory and former parish offices have been renovated into a new rectory complex, connected by the addition of an adoration chapel. Father Shaughnessy had planned for the parish hall/offices project to be finished first, saving the rectory for last. In that scenario, the parish offices would have stayed put until the new building was done.
However, God had other ideas. In January, the rectory was found to need urgent repairs, causing the order of the projects to change; the new rectory complex came first with the parish hall and offices last. The change brought about the minor inconvenience with the now-cramped parish office and the providential, just-in-time aspect of the rectory expansion. In the June priest appointments, the roster of parish priests grew to three from just two; Father Shaughnessy welcomed senior associate pastor Father Gary Vollmer and associate pastor Father Thomas Vordtriede to replace associate pastor Father John Nickolai, who was reassigned St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Parish in Florissant. The chapel is almost ready to go, too.
“The way things unfolded was evidence of God’s loving providence,” Father Shaughnessy said, adding, “All in God’s time, not ours.”