Steamboat Springs A large circle of Holy Name Catholic Church parishioners used shovels and a bucket of holy water Sunday morning to turn a muddy plot of land at Sixth and Oak streets into something more sacred.
The Rev. Ernest Bayer wore a white hard hat and a crisp green robe as he led the parishioners in blessing the land that soon will house a 15,382-square-foot expansion to their place of worship.
“It’s exciting and exhilarating and humbling,” Bayer said at Sunday’s groundbreaking ceremony. “It’s a great privilege to bless this piece of land.”
The ceremony was a major milestone for Bayer, who has spent years fundraising for the construction project with other church leaders. He called the new building a miracle and said he was humbled how “God worked through so many people in so many ways” to make it happen.
Fox Construction will begin work on the $6 million expansion to the church in Old Town this week.
The project is expected to last about 1 1/2 years and will utilize 27 local subcontractors, Fox Construction owner Tom Fox said after he participated in the groundbreaking ceremony.
He said local crews who specialize in excavation, concrete, structural steel, plumbing, masonry and carpentry will have a hand in the building process.
When it’s finished, the taller church will be visible from Lincoln Avenue, he said.
“It’s a beautiful but complex building,” he said. “It will be an icon in this town.”
Sunday’s groundbreaking ceremony was the culmination of nearly four years of fundraising for the expansion.
Bayer said that at times he questioned whether the church could succeed with the ambitious capital campaign. But church leaders were bolstered by a $1 million challenge pledge last year that pushed their fundraising total to the 90 percent mark.
Bayer said Sunday that the church still is working to raise another $500,000 to build and furnish the expansion they’ve planned.
“Designing the church was the fun part,” he said. “The fundraising was the hard part.”
The expansion project will double Holy Name’s worship space and prevent some worshipers from having to watch mass on a TV during the busy Christmas season.
There was standing room only for Sunday’s mass.
“The goal is to have this new part of the church ready and open by Christmas 2013,” Bayer said.
Parishioners mingled after the groundbreaking ceremony Sunday on the lawn of the existing church, which was dedicated on Christmas Eve 1965.
Joe Bender said he was looking forward to watching the new section of the church go up.
“It’s all God’s plan, for God’s glory,” Bender said.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com