Friday, February 20th, 2009
By Shelley Grieshop
Catholics make rare move to existing building
  ROCKFORD - St. Teresa Catholic Church in downtown Rockford is moving to an existing church building outside the village.
Church officials in December purchased a former non-Catholic church on state Route 707, east of state Route 118, due to their growing congregation. The church currently serves 130 families.
"We simply have run out of space," says Diane Huber, the office manager of the church.
The Rockford church is clustered with Immaculate Conception Church in Celina and in the future will be joined by Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Montezuma. The cluster is served by the Revs. Tom Brenberger and Richard Riedel.
Moving into an existing structure - and not constructing a new facility - is a rarity for Catholic churches, according to archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco.
"I talked to our director of property management, who works with pastors on construction and sales of buildings. He's been on the job 30 years and isn't aware of another case of a parish buying an existing building," Andriacco says.
In the early days of the archdiocese, decades ago, it may have occurred more often, he says. But not in recent memory, he adds.
Because the church at 213 S. Franklin St. is so small - seating only about 100 - it rarely is the site for weddings and funerals, Huber says. It is mainly used for Sunday school, which is followed by a single Sunday Mass.
For more than a year, church leaders kicked around ideas on how to meet the needs of the growing congregation. In August, a parish member suggested looking into purchasing the empty, rural church and soon the "ball got rolling," Huber says.
An open house was held at the rural church to let parishioners get a glimpse of the building; votes were later cast and a deal was ultimately made, she says. The church and renovations are being paid for with a recent bequest to the parish.
The new site formerly served members of the Otterbein United Brethren in Christ Church, which disbanded in recent years. The building has a seating capacity nearly double the size of the Catholic church.
The move to the countryside is expected to take place in May but various renovations must first be made. Statues and other items from the current church will be brought to the new one, which does not have kneelers, Huber said.
"We're not sure yet if we'll install kneelers or not," she adds.
The rural church includes office space, something the current one does not.
The current Rockford church was built in 1937 under the supervision of the Rev. Roman Schwieterman, a Precious Blood priest. The building included a basement at a cost of nearly $7,000. The first Mass was celebrated on May 9, 1937.
St. Teresa parish also owns an open lot to the south and a two-story home across the street, which serves as office space. The properties likely will be sold, Huber says.
The idea of moving isn't sitting well with all members, Huber explains. Some village residents aren't happy about driving a few miles out of town to attend Mass and, despite its cramped space, don't want to leave the place where the church got its start, she says.
"But I think once we get out there and put everything in place, people will adjust," she says.
The church, just like the local school, brings in people from a sprawling area. The closest Catholic churches to St. Teresa are located more than 20 miles away, Huber says.
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