A Message from Fr. Shields

The unveiling of the new Master Plan for our parish and school was received with great enthusiasm by the hundreds of parishioners who crowded into the gym after the 10:00 Mass on March 26. At that time, I explained both the process by which we arrived at the current plan, and the rationale for the proposed renovations and new buildings.

In January, 2016, I appointed a Master Plan committee, consisting of 21 members of the parish, representing every segment of the parish community. We then selected a great architectural firm, Quina and Grundhoefer, and asked them to undertake a comprehensive assessment of our existing facilities. In addition, we asked them to help us determine what we need to be a dynamic parish where the Sacraments can be celebrated with dignity and beauty, and parishioners, both young and old, can be equipped for the lives of Christian service and witness.

Through parish surveys, many meetings with the Master Plan committee, and consulting with representatives of the school and parish ministries, our architects developed a beautiful plan for the future of St. Ignatius. The main features of that plan, which can be seen on the opposite page, include the following.

A new Parish Hall and Church. Everyone we heard from listed a parish hall as a basic need for our parish. As we considered possible sites for a parish hall, we also raised the question of whether the current church provides the best possible space for the celebration of the Mass and other sacraments. I pointed out to the committee that over the last six years, there had been only a handful of weddings celebrated in our church, and I had personally celebrated only one very small wedding. Obviously, the marriage of a child is one of the most important events in the life of a family! The great majority of our parishioners do not find our church building to be a suitable place for the celebration of this sacrament, and are electing to have weddings in more traditional churches such as St. Mary’s or the Cathedral. We found this to be troubling, and detrimental to the formation of stable and lasting ties to the parish.

Catholic worship is three-dimensional. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, a church is “a building in which we are attracted to God, and being with God unites us to one another.” A church building which provides a common orientation toward the altar upon which the Lord becomes present, attracts us to God and unites us to one another. As Catholics, we also never worship simply with the visible community gathered around us; we are surrounded by a ‘great cloud of witnesses’, as the Letter to the Hebrews puts it, the saints who have gone before us, and the angels who constantly sing the Sanctus before the throne of God. Statues, stained glass windows, and other sacred art, serves to remind us that we are part of a living tradition, stretching back to the patriarchs and apostles, prophets, martyrs, and saints.

We determined that a church built along classical lines would best serve to move parishioners and visitors to enter more deeply into the spirit of the liturgy, to ‘worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’ (Ps. 96:9). We asked our architects to begin designing a church with such features as a common entrance into a nave with pews facing an altar and reredos made of the finest materials; high ceilings to emphasize the transcendence and majesty of God; stained glass windows depicting the saints and the story of our salvation; and a traditional cruciform configuration of the entire edifice.

The architects showed us many stunning examples of Catholic churches around the country being built in a traditional style. At the same time, we became aware of the real possibility of the closure of St. Joseph Church. If such a closure were to occur, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to preserve the priceless objects of sacred art from St. Joseph in a new church for St. Ignatius. It seemed fitting to preserve an important part of the history of the Catholic Church in Mobile in a parish which, like St. Joseph, had been under the care of the Jesuit priests for many years.

Our architects have begun the design of a new church for St. Ignatius, which will recreate the interior space of St. Joseph, and will contain the stained glass windows, pews, altar, reredos, light fixtures, stations of the cross, and statues from St. Joseph.

A very important consideration in the desire to build a new church was the recommendation from Quina and Grundhoefer that our current church could, at a reasonable price, be converted into a very attractive and functional parish hall. It will be able to accommodate up to 500 guests for a reception, and over 350 for a seated dinner.

New School facilities. Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’ Our first mission is to the children of our parish. Our school, which provides an excellent Catholic education, is badly in need of new and renovated facilities including:

A new middle school, which will allow us to incorporate 6th graders into the middle school, and provide classroom space best suited to implement a curriculum which middle schoolers will find stimulating and challenging. In addition, by moving the 6th grade out of the Murray Building, we will be able to move Art, Music, and Science into those vacated spaces. The final result will be a K-8 complex grouped around a central administrative area.

A new cafeteria, replacing the current space, which is poorly lit, with a small and outdated kitchen. Building a new, spacious, attractive cafeteria, with wide panels of windows overlooking the playing field and allowing natural light to flood in, will also give additional gym space. With 29 CYO basketball teams, an active youth ministry, and volleyball teams, we badly need additional court space.

A new Early Learning Center, to be located in expanded facilities on the first floor of the current middle school building. This center will consolidate our educational programs and care for infants through K-4. These programs are currently housed in four different buildings, three of them outdated, and not built specifically for early childhood instructional programs. If we are to continue to attract young families to St. Ignatius, we must provide first-rate facilities and programs for their young children.

A New Youth Center. The current building housing the youth program was built over 60 years ago, and is not large enough nor properly configured to serve the needs of our dynamic youth ministry. With Confirmation having moved to the 11th grade, our youth center now hosts over 150 teenagers for dinner and fellowship each week.
A new Rectory for our priests. How would you like to live over your office or business, and have your kitchen, dining room, and television area in the middle of the space where employees regularly work, and customers visit? Our resident and visiting priests need a place of their own, still conveniently located on campus and close to the new church.

A new Administrative Building. Parish offices are in a building which was designed as a convent for religious sisters. It is cramped, inefficient, and lacking in space for normal business functions such as preparation of mailings and other materials, and meeting space for staff.

The entire Master Plan will greatly improve the attractiveness, efficiency and order of our campus. At the same time, our playground area will be expanded with the consolidation of our early childhood programs, and we will end up with more total parking spaces than we currently have. I am excited about this plan, and I ask you to pray for the success of the effort to implement every feature of it. The architectural renderings will be on display in the church, and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have and listen to your suggestions.

May the Lord bless our parish, and strengthen us to glorify Him and be His witnesses here in Spring Hill.