Holy Name Catholic Church parishioners watch Mass on a TV on Sunday in the basement of the church. An expansion project is under way to double the amount of worship space in the church.

Photo by Scott Franz

Holy Name Catholic Church parishioners watch Mass on a TV on Sunday in the basement of the church. An expansion project is under way to double the amount of worship space in the church.

Holy Name Catholic Church leaders excited by progress of church expansion

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Father Ernest Bayer leads Mass on Sunday at Holy Name Catholic Church. Bayer and other church leaders are pleased with the progress of an expansion project that will double the worship space of the church in downtown Steamboat Springs.

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Holy Name Catholic Church parishioners watch Mass on a TV on Sunday in the basement of the church. An expansion project is under way to double the amount of worship space in the church.

— At this time of year, Masses at Holy Name Catholic Church are experienced in two very different rooms.

Upstairs, parishioners catch the live show. But after the pews quickly fill up, so does the large church basement, where Mass is broadcast on a large Panasonic TV.

“More space would be fantastic,” parishioner Theresa Gowin said Sunday in the church basement as she watched her 1 1/2-year-old son, Logan, draw in a coloring book as a group of about 30 people watched Mass on the TV.

Second-home owners like Gowin and visitors who travel here from across the country push the church beyond its capacity each year during some Masses, especially during the busy holiday season.

A construction project under way just outside the church will change that and accommodate everyone in a few years.

In July, Fox Construction broke ground on the 15,382-square-foot expansion of the church in downtown Steamboat Springs. The tall trusses of the new worship space on Oak Street are expected to start going up in March.

Father Ernest Bayer said that's when the community will really be able to get a sense of what the new church will look like.

“For me, the word is relief,” Bayer said Sunday after he presided over a second morning Mass. “Relief that we finally broke ground, and we're finally going forward.”

He said the new worship space is expected to be ready to welcome parishioners in fall 2014.

Until then, the church is adapting to holding Mass in its current building that lost about 30 square feet of space to accommodate the start of the new construction.

It takes parishioners a little bit more time to filter in and out of the Mass, Bayer said.

But a new window at the back of the church gives everyone a clear view of what's being built.

And Bayer said the temporary loss of space does have a few temporary benefits.

“We're cozier,” Bayer said. “Everyone is closer up around the alter and closer together when they worship.”

Bayer said about 30 local subcontractors will have a hand in the expansion project. And as crews prepare to start building vertically in the spring, the church still is working to raise funds for the additional worship space that is estimated to cost $7.2 million.

Church leaders initially estimated the expansion would cost $6 million.

Bayer said with 90 percent of the construction cost now secured through the fundraising campaign, he and others are working to raise about $600,000.

“There was a time we thought we were shut down,” longtime church volunteer Diane Franklin said, adding that the recent recession made the launch of the church's major capital campaign more difficult.

But last year, the capital campaign was bolstered by a $1 million challenge pledge that pushed the fundraising total to the current 90 percent mark.

Bayer repeatedly has called the expansion project “humbling.”

And as parishioners mingled after Mass on Sunday, he said the project also has faced some criticism and resistance.

“There were some who said now is not the time to expand the church. Now is the time to help the poor,” Bayer said. “We decided we should do both.”

He said in recent years, the church launched Operation Good Shepard, a service that offers aid to impoverished community members.

He added he envisions the new church will be used as a gathering place for all community members, not just parishioners at Holy Name.

“We're just trying to do our part as a Catholic family to live up to being a place of great hospitality for guests,” Bayer said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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