By Wally Kennedy
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Plans for a new St. Mary’s Catholic Church will begin taking shape on April 24, when church officials meet with architects to lay out a vision for the Joplin parish.
The Rev. Justin Monaghan, pastor of the parish, on Tuesday said reconstruction of the church, which was destroyed by the May 22 tornado, will be the first priority. That project could begin later this year.
During Easter Mass on Sunday, Monaghan informed the congregation that land for rebuilding the church has been purchased at West 32nd Street and Central City Road on the west side of Joplin.
“Each time I made the announcement, there was a big applause from the whole congregation attending the Masses. That was very encouraging,” he said. “We’re sure ready for it.”
Monaghan read a letter from Bishop James V. Johnston that informed those attending each Mass that 23.3 acres on which the church will be rebuilt had been purchased with money from a $250,000 gift to the parish. The gift was from Sisters of Mercy Health System.
Monaghan said the St. Mary’s parish purchased 23.3 acres. The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau purchased another 23.3 acres, bringing the total site to about 47 acres.
“It’s a little confusing,” Monaghan said. “We bought 47 acres. St. Mary’s owns half of it, and the diocese owns the other half.”
The parish will receive a second gift of $250,000 next year from Sisters of Mercy Health System to assist with construction of the new church.
Monaghan said he will encourage the architects to produce a development plan for the entire 47 acres.
“There will be the church, parking lots, the possibility of a school, and a social hall,” he said. “We want a footprint of what could be, possibly in the future, and some of it in the immediate.
“By planning for all of it, we won’t have regrets in the future. Why didn’t we plan for that? Why didn’t we think of that? We want it so that it’s all upfront. We can do nothing but improve our whole setup.”
Jimmer Pinjuv, owner of the Wildwoood Ranch development, said the church will be constructed at the northeast corner of the entrance to the development.
“This is a win-win for us and them — all the way around,” he said, noting that he will volunteer to serve on the church’s building and fundraising committees. “It’s a huge deal for our development. We could not have received a bigger Easter blessing.”
The future of St. Mary’s Elementary School is the focus of an ongoing discussion with the bishop.
St. Mary’s classes are being held in a warehouse that is serving as a temporary school.
“It’s just not working out. It’s not satisfactory,” Monaghan said. “We’re going to make some changes this year or we will be turning some students away, and we really don’t want to do that.”
The parish sold much of the land it owned near 25th Street and Moffet Avenue to Empire District Electric Co. to permit the company to quadruple the size of a power substation it operates near there.
THE PARISH kept the cemetery and the land it owns north of the cross that still stands from the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
“WE’RE GOING TO REPAIR the cross and fill in some of the open area there,” said the Rev. Justin Monaghan. “We’ve decided the cross should be taken down, stabilized and repaired, and put back with a memorial area there. That’s part of Joplin’s history at this point.”