St. Katharine Drexel Parish considers church renovations

July 26, 2017

St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Parish is planning a major renovation to the 117-year-old church that towers over South Spring Street in Beaver Dam.

St. Katharine Drexel was built as St. Peter’s Church in 1900. The church as undergone renovations in the past and now houses the entire population of the Catholic church members in Beaver Dam.

The Rev. Mike Erwin said the church currently has 1,300 families as members and about 1,100 of those members come weekly.

The need for renovations at the church have been known for a long time, Erwin said. Almost 15 years ago, all the Catholic churches in Beaver Dam were combined under the name St. Katharine Drexel. The three churches were St. Patrick’s on Maple Avenue; St. Peter’s on Spring Street and St. Michael’s on Madison Street. St. Michael’s closed in 2006 and St. Patrick’s Church closed in 2012.

At one point, there was a study on building a new facility, Erwin said, however the beauty of the St. Katharine Drexel School on Spring Street won out and the congregation decided to stay in the current building.

A former retail building on the corner of Spring and Mill streets was purchased and became the parish center. St. Katharine Drexel School on Spring Street became the 3K-8 school and has seen many renovations in the last six years.

At this point, Erwin said they are looking at doing a capital campaign for the church. An architectural study was done and the engineers and architects agreed it is a great building overall, he said.

In addition, the congregation was surveyed and several needs for improvements were noted: Parking, handicap accessibility, entrances to the church, the bathrooms (it currently has one), the narthex of the church where parishioners can gather and parishioner visibility.

There are several general maintenance issues that have to be addressed including repairing the bell tower, Erwin said.

The main part of the church also would see a lot of changes including new pews.

“The original pews were taken out in the 1950s,” Erwin said. “These ones are laminate over pressboard. After 60 years, they are tired so if we renovate the church we will replace the pews.”

The paint in the church would be updated as well and Erwin said they would like to update the carpeting.

“It’s been 30 years since the last major paint job,” Erwin said.

The ramp needs to be repaired and enclosed for easier access into the church.

The church purchased three houses on James Street and two would be taken down at the start of the project to add parking spaces.

A possible interior change would be to bring the altar into the center of the church and improve the placement of pews so they are not facing the entry. A large part of the project may be to connect the church and the school gymnasium together.

There have been three well-attended meetings where people have learned about the needs of the church.

“Some of it was educational to remind the church members of the liturgical principles,” Erwin said. “Some of the meetings were to learn about the priorities of the community.”

“The consultant said they never seen these kind of numbers,” Erwin said. “We had 160 people at the first meeting, 80 people at the second and 110 people at the third.”

Erwin said that they do not know how much the project will cost at this point and have not finished final designs.

“They should be finished shortly after Labor Day,” Erwin said.

The Capital Campaign for the project will start in the fall or winter. Erwin said the church would have to have half the money for the projects banked before construction could start.

“If all goes well construction will happen in the summer of 2019,” Erwin said.