Celebrating 100 years: St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church launches capital campaignSt. Wenceslaus Catholic Church is launching its centennial year with a capital campaign to take the church into the next century. The Rev. Patrick Schumacher is introducing the design plans to the parish during the weekend Masses.
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church is launching its centennial year with a capital campaign to take the church into the next century.
The Rev. Patrick Schumacher is introducing the design plans to the parish during the weekend Masses.
“The timeline is not going to be a surprise to a lot of people,” Schumacher said. “We’ve done parish dinners with the councils and small groups of parishioners who’ve seen the design concept.”
Preliminary plans by Al Fitterer Architect call for interior renovation and a gathering space addition at a cost of $2.75 million.
The timeline began Aug. 24, 2011, with an initial meeting with Doug Henning of Henning Church and Historical Restoration and representatives of the architect firm and the parish.
Speaking of the renovations, Henning said, “I think it will increase spirituality. A lot of the newer church designs are more functional, and this is more spiritual.”
The first drawings were received Jan. 10, with review during parish dinners.
“Basically, it’s been 14 months in the making this weekend,” Schumacher said.
Construction is scheduled to begin in August or September.
Laudie Simek, who was baptized in St. Wenceslaus Church 84 years ago, is waiting to see what the plans entail. His grandparents were among the 45 families who founded the church. Learning of the renovations to come, he said, “Well, if it has to be done, I guess we have to do it.”
Schumacher remembers being assigned to St. Wenceslaus Church 18 years ago, serving with the Rev. Peter Kramer.
“Now, I’m back as pastor and what an opportunity to celebrate the centennial with the people,” he said.
His assistant is Rev. Kregg W. Hochhalter, parochial vicar.
Reflecting on the church’s heritage, Schumacher is impressed by the faith and sacrifices of the founding families.
“Now here we are today and what can we do to provide for the next generation,” Schumacher said.
The plans are to enhance the worship space and the gathering space at the entrance.
“We will provide a level access for all who enter the church without steps,” he said.
The gathering space will be 1,850 square feet, with an opening into the outdoor expanded gathering space on Third Street East.
“That was tricky to do on the hill — the architect moved the design to the east to achieve the grade,” Schumacher said.
The church building has other repair concerns.
“We have roofing needs, we have lighting needs, we have sound issues, and when we looked at the entire picture, where did we want to be 20 and 30 years from now?” Schumacher said. “With our centennial, what sacrifices can we make for people for the next 40 and 50 years?”
Schumacher’s capital campaign efforts are not his first. He led a redesign campaign for St. Joseph’s Church, Mandan, three years ago when he was pastor there.
He describes the sanctuary as having a neoclassical design particular to the 16th century and reminiscent of churches in Rome.
The present church building was constructed in the 1950s, using one of the three church designs popular at the time.
The sanctuary beams will be covered and enhanced by lighting.
“I believe it’s time to cover the whole thing with a new, brighter look,” he said. “We’ll lower the ceiling 18 inches to conceal the lights. We’ll give the sanctuary a look of the Holy of Holies. We’ll have the same crucifix, the same stained glass windows and the same stations of the cross.”
Schumacher is looking for full-figured statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph to place in the sanctuary. Above them will be prayers in the Czech language to honor the church’s heritage.
The sanctuary will have a new altar, ambo (raised platform) and the return of a partial communion rail — not for kneeling but to define space.
“Churches, above all, need to be beautiful, they should be devotional, they should be mystical in lending us to grasp what is beyond us,” Schumacher said.
The pews are scheduled to be replaced, after a refinishing project was unsatisfactory, he said.
The church will have slate flooring throughout. The stained glass windows, damaged in a hail storm, will be inspected to make sure of their integrity. A protective barrier may be needed to make them more energy efficient, Schumacher said.
The church enrollment is 760 families, but that number is expected to increase as the city of Dickinson grows, Schumacher said.
Seating will be increased to 600 as compared to 540. The gathering space will allow for overflow seating, he said.
The plans call for an extension of the balcony, so that all the musical instruments may be moved upstairs.
Music director Priscilla Keogh said the choir already sings from the loft. However, with the renovations, the Baldwin grand piano and one of the keyboards may move upstairs as well.
“I like being in the choir loft because it allows us a little more freedom to do our work without being a distraction and it gives us a lot more space,” she said. “Also, churches were designed acoustically for the choir loft to be the source of the music.”
Keogh believes the improvements will be positive.
“The church is going to be very beautiful and provide a sacred space,” she said. “Also, it will be more accessible in back without having the stairs.”
She described the 100th anniversary celebration as quite a milestone for the parish.
“It gives us an opportunity to look back and reflect on our roots — where we came from and the people who established our parish. Really, it’s a tribute to them,” she said.
The Most Rev. David D. Kagan, bishop of Bismarck, in a letter to the parish, said he was impressed by the preliminary drawings.
Being the parish’s centennial year, he wrote, “I knew this would be an exciting time, not only for the parish of St. Wenceslaus, but also the entire community of Dickinson.”
Associate architect Lee Pierce helped with the designs and coordinated the plans.
The architect’s goal was to make sure the exterior and interior features flowed together as a whole, she said.
“I’m excited for the parish,” she said. “I hope they receive it well. The church is very proud already and the improvements will be something to be proud of without losing its identity — we want to respect that.”
Michael Kiedrowski, a St. Wenceslaus parishioner and Diocese of Bismarck director of planned giving, is available as a consultant.
For more information, contact the parish office at 701-225-3972.