Completing church basement, new outreach equipment are keys to achieving evangelization goals
By Jim Wogan
For five years, parishioners at St. Patrick Church in Morristown have been holding some of their meetings and social gatherings in the church basement. Not unusual—unless you consider the basement has no heat or air conditioning.
It’s not all bad. The basement is underground on three sides and well insulated, according to Father Patrick Brownell, pastor at St. Patrick.
While the unfinished basement isn’t the primary gathering option at St. Patrick, it points to a larger issue — how to fulfill parish needs in a diocese that is trying to keep up with tremendous growth.
The basement was part of the construction of a new church in 2002. It has remained unfinished to this day. Monsignor Patrick Garrity was the pastor of St. Patrick then and led the effort to construct the new church.
“Monsignor Garrity’s legacy at St. Patrick was building the new sanctuary, which created an 8,000-square-foot basement.
Thanks to him and the urgings of his parishioners, they created that space for future completion,” Father Brownell said.
The future is now, and parishioners at St. Patrick wanted to add some necessary upgrades—not to mention heat and air conditioning to make the basement a central gathering space for ministry.
“This is the optimal time. I really could not see having the parish wait another couple of years. When you have the momentum you really hate to stop it,” Father Brownell said.
That’s where the Home Campaign came in.
As a Wave 1 participant in the campaign, St. Patrick parishioners set their sights high, waving off a diocesan-recommended goal of just over $500,000 and instead shooting for something more ambitious.
“We really put a pencil to what it is we wanted to accomplish and took a gulp and said ‘can we do a million bucks,’ and decided that would be our goal,” said Chris Liposky, co-chairman of the St. Patrick Home Campaign.
Parishioners went even further, raising nearly $1.1 million.
“This largely was about our future and we pointed that out,” said campaign co-chairman Justin Cook. “It was a positive message to help sustain and expand our ministries. Those were the things that allowed us to do well.”
Father Brownell is excited about the results of a successful campaign.
“I thought, now is the time. The parish is growing, let’s go ahead and finish this out and let’s incorporate some things we need—like a nursery, for instance,” he said.
The nursery is a primary objective for Father Brownell. So is space for religious education. Thanks to the campaign, there are now plans to construct rooms for youth activities and administrative offices, and add another six to seven meeting rooms.
“My goal is to see these rooms being used every night of the week,” Father Brownell said.
The basement upgrade was just one focus of St. Patrick’s Home Campaign effort. Father Brownell believes improving the church narthex will help with parishioner outreach.
“It’s an underutilized area and quite large. Why make somebody, especially an immigrant family, get out of work to drive to the church to fill out a form or to ask a question,” he asked.
“Instead of making people come to us during the week, why not train volunteers, have some computers at a little information station, and we can have all the information there. If people want to register their child, they don’t have to come in during the week, they can do it after Mass,” Father Brownell pointed out.
The parish hopes to add furniture, interior signs and monitors, and create more social space so that people can interact and learn more about parish activities.
While St. Patrick wants to be more welcoming and functional on the inside, the parish also is striving to be more inviting on the outside.
Located along one of the busiest stretches of road in Hamblen County, Father Brownell believes the church’s profile can be raised with the addition of a new electronic sign—positioned in a way that will be hard to miss for people driving along Highway 11E.
“We are going to have an LED sign out front. I want the community that drives by, and there are thousands of cars that go by on Andrew Johnson Highway, I really want people to see what we’re doing and invite them to come in— whether it’s a free concert, or Ash Wednesday, or an open house, or a parish tour,” Father Brownell said.
In outlining plans for approval from Bishop Richard F. Stika, Father Brownell was convincing.
“I told the bishop that we’re called to evangelize and this is a wonderful way to do so. We need to use technology and I think we can do it in a way that respects our tradition and is part of the architectural design of the church,” he said.
“I want to let people in the community know they’re invited. I want the Hispanic community to see updates in Spanish.”
Mr. Liposky and Mr. Cook said the passion for spiritual growth at St. Patrick has been building for a few years and both men credit Father Brownell and a series of weekend retreats as catalysts for a successful campaign.
In addition, Father Brownell and members of his parish made a trip to Maryland to visit the Church of the Nativity—the focal point for a book titled “Rebuilt.” Father Brownell presented copies of the book to parish leadership. While not directly related to the Home Campaign effort, the book helped plant the seed for future action.
“The ultimate objective is for parishioners to be rejuvenated, get a spiritual shot in the arm, and ultimately to go on and serve in ministries, to support the Church.
It brought a lot of people out and got them connected in comradery and friendship,” Mr. Cook said.
Mr. Liposky was involved in a previous parish campaign— heading up a St. Patrick capital effort in 2010 that fell short of its intended goal. That experience, he said, coupled with the guidance and expertise of the Steier Group, a consulting firm assisting the diocese with the Home Campaign, and the Diocese of Knoxville’s Stewardship and Development staff, helped make their Home Campaign effort successful.
“The Steier Group did an outstanding job. We didn’t have that benefit the last time around,” Mr. Liposky said.
Father Brownell echoed those compliments. And when it came time to make a pitch to his parishioners, he put his money where his mouth is.
“I told our parishioners, I am not going to ask you to do something I am not willing to do myself and I said, as your pastor, I will be the first pledge.”
His belief in the campaign allowed him to accept a challenge he called sacrificial.
“Don’t kid yourself into thinking that I don’t have things I could spend that money on,” he said. “But this is important and this is a way to show gratitude for what God has given us. I will never ask you to do something that I am not willing to do,” Father Brownell added.
“As people learned more about the campaign, it got easier. Father Patrick did an excellent job explaining that and making it clear,” Mr. Liposky said.
The diocesan Home Campaign started in late 2014 with four pilot parishes—Sacred Heart Cathedral, the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Chattanooga, St. John Neumann, and All Saints — leading the way.
St. Patrick was one of 14 diocesan parishes that were part of Wave 1 of the Home Campaign that started in February 2015.
Wave 2 parishes kicked off their campaign efforts on Sept. 19. Wave 3 parishes begin their campaigns in early 2016.
For more on the campaign and a detailed profile of each parish and their campaign projects, please visit dioknox.org.