EFFINGHAM — After two years of planning and 10 months of work, Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki blessed the newly renovated Sacred Heart Catholic Church Saturday.

Paprocki ceremoniously opened the sanctuary doors and rededicated the church and altar during its first Mass.

Christy Hakman, who served on the Restoration Committee, said the idea for the renovation began with some surveys to the parish and the formation of a three-, five- and 10-year strategy plan, which began in December 2014.

“It became clear that in planning for the future of the parish, we had to address the challenges that parishioners felt needed immediate attention – those were worn carpet and pews, an ineffective sound system, and lack of space for gatherings, Bible studies and meetings,” said Hakman.

The Restoration Committee was formed to explore options and put together a plan. It became clear that if pews and flooring were going to be removed, this would be a good opportunity to spruce up the entire sanctuary and worship space as well.

“One thing led to another, and the parishioners responded positively when we did our feasibility study to gauge the amount of financial support we might receive if we moved forward,” said Hakman. “So in September of 2018, we kicked off the Renew & Rejoice capital campaign with the goal of raising a minimum of $1.6 million – and an ultimate goal of $2.25 million. We hoped to raise the ultimate goal so that the parish wouldn’t need to take out a loan from the diocese. We didn’t want any long-term debt.”

The renovation began with a groundbreaking in April 2019. Final costs are still being tabulated, but it is anticipated to reach $2.5 million for the entire project, a member of the Restoration Committee reported.

Hakman said parishioners, school families, local businesses and friends of Sacred Heart parish so far have donated $2.7 million of the $3.3 million pledged, with the goal of all pledges being paid by the end of 2021.

She added the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois didn’t provide financial support, but it did give guidance and assistance during the capital campaign and renovation, including reviewing the plans, documentation and liturgical guidelines for the church.

Built in 1969, Hakman said this is the first renovation of the church, aside from new carpeting installed about 20 years ago.

Pastor of the church, the Rev. Michal Rosa, said after much planning, hard work and sacrifice, parishioners are now able to enjoy and use the worship space and new narthex in which to gather outside of the sanctuary.

Some of the changes to the church include a facelift to the entire worship area and the addition of the 3,500 square feet to the narthex for gathering.

In addition, the project included new energy-efficient doors and windows throughout the church, geothermal HVAC system, new plumbing and fixtures, a new sanctuary backdrop, new flooring, fresh paint and stain to the walls and ceiling; a new shrine area, a new altar, a new ambo (podium), new baptismal font, and some new furniture. However, the church still seats 750 people, just as before the renovation.

Working on the project were Stauder Architecture from St. Louis and Swingler Construction from Teutopolis. A number of local and area subcontractors and vendors were also involved.

The project was guided by Sacred Heart Restoration Committee members Judy Bergfeld, Judy Luchtefeld, Mike Schmitz, Kim Standfield, Marty Stock, Vicki Walker, Penny Wiedman, Hakman and Rosa.

Hakman said the committee has received many compliments on the project.

In his homily, Paprocki gave kudos to the committee and the parishioners for accomplishing the renovation, but reminded all to remain focused.

“Every Eucharist is a foretaste of Heaven,” said Paprocki. “A beautiful new worship space such as this one helps us to imagine the delight in sharing of a heavenly banquet someday. But, let’s not lose our focus on that prize. We don’t want to be like the shepherd who was so enamored about sights along the way that he forgot where he was going.”

Paprocki said the newly renovated church will help each person find the law of God’s love in their hearts.

“St. Paul reminds us that we are God’s building and the foundation of that building must be Jesus Christ,” said Paprocki.

The congregation was invited to a thanksgiving following the Mass with heavy hors d’oeuvres and desserts.

“Everyone knew it was time to update the church and now it has a classic, updated look, but it still looks like the church we all know and love,” said Hakman.

Dawn Schabbing can be reached at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext 138.

Dawn Schabbing can be reached at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext 138.


Dawn Schabbing is a senior reporter at the Effingham Daily News, covering Effingham City Hall, Unit 40, and special projects. A graduate of Lake Land College and Eastern Illinois University with degrees in journalism, she lives in Neoga.

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