The sanctuary walls of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church are lined with the colorful prayers of children, focused on the noisy construction just outside the hall.
Ss. Peter and Paul is a mainstay of Collinsville and currently undergoing a major renovation and expansion project brought about in part by the expansion of Illinois 159 and in part to the age of their building.
St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church dates back to 1856, and now includes more than 1,350 families. The current church building was constructed in the 1960s, but had a number of challenges, including the lack of an elevator and handicapped-accessible restrooms.
The church is surrounded on all sides by residential and commercial properties and shares space with its elementary Catholic school. In 2009, the church launched phase one of a capital improvement campaign, which included air conditioning, a new playground, asbestos abatement and other improvements to the school, as well as renovations to the parish center and gymnasium.
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But then the widening of Route 159 eliminated parking in front of the church, which meant most people could not use the doors for coming and going from the building during Sunday Mass or for funerals and weddings.
“We realized because of Highway 159, it’s affected very much our ability to use our facility,” said Father John Beveridge, pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul. “It will be so accessible and so much more fun. People can gather and can grow better in relationship with each other.”
So the church began work on a fellowship hall with a covered entrance and an elevator, which will solve most of the problems in one addition. It will provide a single entrance for easier access to the building, a handicapped-accessible fellowship hall, a new parish office and other improvements.
“We want to become the welcoming place to come in Collinsville,” said Camille Emig-Hill, co-chairwoman of the fundraising project. “We have plans to be more outreaching and more welcoming, and have more things for our parishioners and our community as we move forward.”
Construction actually began on April 24, and it was originally hoped that the project would take one year, but Beveridge said the weather has been pretty bad for construction. It may continue past next April.
It’s a great jubilee year for us.
Father John Beveridge, pastor of Ss. Peter & Paul
Other work is being done inside the church, including repainting of the sanctuary and modifying the altar railing to conform with current liturgical design. Other short-term issues must be addressed: for example, the church has a hot tub for a baptismal font. “While it’s certainly effective, it reflects neither the sanctity nor the mystery of this holy rite of initiation into Christ’s holy church,” read the proposal published by the parish.
The total cost of the project is $4.5 million, of which $2.5 million has been raised. The Catholic Diocese is willing to help with a short-term loan, but $2 million still needs to be raised to pay it back with a stretch goal of $2.5 million to fully finish the project, Emig-Hill said.
It so happens that the fundraising drive will launch on the day of the 50th anniversary of the current building’s dedication.
“It’s a great jubilee year for us,” Beveridge said.
The wall of prayers in the sanctuary was created by , who showed great curiosity and excitement about the project, Beveridge said.
“We’re trying to help them to realize that prayer is at the heart of everything we do,” Beveridge said.
The children created their prayers — written and illustrated — focused on the future of the church, the fundraising to pay for it, and the safety of the workers.
On Sunday, the parish will hold a celebration dinner, showing a DVD created about the project, a skit from the children and other activities to both inform the parish and grow their enthusiasm about the project, Beveridge said.
“People can actually see what kids are thinking and praying about,” Beveridge said. “We just know, unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”