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  • Writer's pictureChurch of St. Mark

From the Heart of the Shepherd

By Fr. David Hottinger, PES - Pastor

From the bulletin for the Third Sunday in Lent (Mar 03, 2024)

Third Sunday of Lent

In the Year B Gospel for today, Jesus speaks of the temple He will rebuild in three days time after its destruction (Jn 2:19). His audience, in their confusion, shared that the temple they were standing in had been under (re)construction for forty-six years, which was probably longer than they had been told when the amplification project was first announced at the end of a Sabbath service a couple generations earlier. Hence the phrase: “it always takes longer and costs more.” If only they knew that in forty more years, not one stone of that temple would stand upon another! (Mt 24:2) But as the Psalm itself says, “Unless the LORD build the house, in vain do the laborers labor!” (Ps 127:1) 

If you came to Mass this weekend, you don’t need to read the bulletin to know that the restoration is underway. After a sleepy Monday at the parish, already by Tuesday evening the whole west side was girded in scaffolding. On Wednesday the scaffolding was sheathed in plastic as our Hendrickson organ started to get sealed. And come Thursday the damaged plaster was coming down in quantities as the demo work began. 

Kind of exciting. For context, six years ago we had a major repair of the east interior wall and a portion of the sanctuary on the sacristy side. This repair was long overdue, but was delayed until the water infiltration had been addressed. As you will recall, we made a push to raise funds at the end of last year. Having already received a $8,000 donation as seed money, our goal was to raise at least 30K more to give us something of a cushion, given where the bids were coming in. 

You will also recall that the parish responded with generosity and we ended up raising over $68K in the (first installment of the!) Rebuild Our Church appeal. 

That response allowed us to broaden the scope of the project, raising the expected price from $42K (the high bidder proved to be the best option) to 48. It also covered some hefty incidental expenses, such as those related to sealing our organ to protect its many pipes from the plaster dust (a neighboring parish failed to do this in a recent project and ended up paying up the nose to clean their instrument!). We also knew from the get-go that only once the demo work began and the contractors saw the extent of the damage would we have a full sense of the work needed. Early reports are that structurally, the brickwork behind is sound and the concrete trim around the stained glass window is just in need of a cleaning (phew!), but that the lathing in some areas is rotten and in need of replacement.

Long story short, certainly the Lord knew better than we how much was needed for the project. $68,000 might be just the right amount! As another pastor recently told me, “always expect the double of what you start with.”

In any case, we definitely want to do this right the first time and to make the most of the opportunity if it turns out that the damage extends deeper than just the plaster. We still have assurances from the company that the job can be done before Easter, or at least the organ unsealed. 

Meanwhile, parish life continues. Baptisms in the sacristy, daily Masses in the adoration chapel, and the demo work providing everyone who enters the church with a free coating of Dust & Ashes in the latest of Lenten fashions. We have been assured by the contractors that the main church will remain handicapped accessible on the weekends, though unfortunately this is not possible during the week.

“If the LORD does not build the house…” “In three days I will raise it up…” The house, the temple, is the Lord’s Body, the Church. These buildings of stone, none of which will have stone left upon another when all is said and done, are merely at the service of the living stones, providing us a place to gather and to direct our hearts to God, present in our midst. Yet for that very reason, our parish church is the most precious thing “made by hands” that has been entrusted to us. Please join me and the parish staff in praying to St. Joseph that he serve as general contractor for the restoration of our church, beginning with this project but also for the floor project, the new bathrooms, the basement renovation, and so forth. That under his protection and with his intercession, the LORD might truly be the (re)builder here, and our labors might not be in vain, but produce abundant fruit in the form of sanctified living stones glorifying God in droves each week at the Church of Saint Mark!

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