By Andy Ostmeyer
Globe Metro Editor
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Plans for a new St. Mary’s Catholic Church, elementary school, offices and parish center were unveiled over the weekend by Bishop James Johnston of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese and the Rev. Justin Monaghan, pastor of St. Mary’s.
Johnston made the announcement during Masses on Saturday and Sunday, likening the 19 months of waiting since the tornado destroyed the property to the waiting Catholics commemorate during Advent.
The new church will be larger — growing from a seating capacity of about 400 at the former St. Mary’s to about 750 — and the new school, which will include preschool through fifth-grade classrooms, will have room to expand.
“There is enough area if the middle school decided to move out there, or the high school,” Monaghan said.
The church, on Easter weekend, announced the acquisition of 47 acres near West 32nd Street and Central City Road as the site of its new home.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the rectory, elementary school, parish center and St. Vincent de Paul building, all near 25th Street and Moffet Avenue, were destroyed on May 22, 2011. The parish sold much of the land it owned at that location to Empire District Electric Co. to allow the utility to expand its nearby substation.
The new church will have a reflecting pool/retention pond and a large cross, similar to the iron cross that survived the storm and has become a symbol and prayer site for many since the tornado.
“That would mean so much for St. Mary’s parishioners,” Monaghan said of the plans for a new cross.
The iron cross will remain at its original location, but will be taken up and reset there to stabilize it.
The parish also has acquired a private residence for its priest in the adjacent Wildwood Ranch development.
Donations for St. Mary’s came from all over the country and from other churches. Using money that was donated, the bishop bought stained-glass windows for the new church and stone Stations of the Cross from Denmark.
Not much was saved from the old church, except for the sacred vessels, and some of what was saved, including a statue of St. Mary, is being repaired.
The new church, school and parish center complex was designed by RDG, an architectural and design firm out of Omaha, Neb., to have the feel of a village, Monaghan said. Designs by the firm also show a bell tower, athletic fields and more that could be added with later phases.
Getting to the building stage has involved parish surveys, countless committee and subcommittee meetings, and visits to other churches, Monaghan said.
He and other members of the building committee met with the architects to review their work online. The architects could make modifications at parish suggestions, such as changing a roof line, and committee members in Joplin could see them immediately via the Internet. The bishop, too, could participate from his home in Springfield.
Monaghan said there was talk of rebuilding one building at a time, but by doing them together the parish will save money. The projected cost will be about $13.5 million and will include future fundraising efforts, he said.
Monaghan praised the bishop and committee members for their work and noted that the church community, which is celebrating Mass in a temporary site on East Seventh Street, is eager to have a permanent home again.
“What has been extraordinary is how our parish community has stayed together in this temporary location,” he said.
THE PLAN IS to break ground for the new St. Mary’s Catholic Church, elementary school and parish center in late spring or early summer, and move forward aggressively with building, said the Rev. Justin Monaghan. The school would be ready by August 2014.