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St. Anne reaches fundraising goal for new church

The Rev. Bill Holtzinger got a great birthday present and a better early Christmas gift from his congregation at St. Anne Catholic Church.

The fundraising campaign for a new church building reached its minimum goal of $2.5 million on his birthday, Nov. 15, and its "super goal" of $3.5 million last week to build a new church.

The fundraising goals were met in less than three months.

"For me, this journey has been an amazing gift by God," says Holtzinger, who has been the pastor of the St. Anne parish in Grants Pass since 2009.

"We knew people wanted it, but we didn't know there was this much push to do it," he says.

The new church on Northeast 10th Street will be built in the same footprint as the current one — only slightly larger.

All of the permits, approvals and even the technical drawings and blueprints for the project are still in progress, Holtzinger says. But the plan is to begin demolition this summer after asbestos-abatement work is complete. The goal is to have the new foundation in place by the end of 2017.

In the interim, daily services will be held in the church hall, which is on the same property.

Thanks to the generosity of the congregation — with gifts ranging from a $500,000 donation by the Chapman family, to $1 donations from children who attend Mass — the church will not be built gradually over years as the last one was.

"We won't run into a 'we don't have the money' problem," Holtzinger says. "They say it will be completed in 10 months."

The new building will be far more traditional than its Mid-Century Modern predecessor, with a Romanesque feel.

That includes rounded-top windows, two steeples and one main entrance. A center aisle will divide two rows of pews to seat about 450 people. Space at the front and back of the church can be used to add up to 150 chairs. The current church holds 550 people.

While the main church will be smaller than the current one, the new building will use space for other needs, including a "cry room," larger restrooms, a room for brides to prepare or for small meetings of ushers or choir members. Also a large baptismal font, a flower preparation room with a sink and a larger sacristy are in the plans.

Improved audio and video systems are in the budget, as is energy-saving changes in lighting, heating and air-conditioning.

The idea of a new building to replace the current facility, which was built from 1959 to 1961, has been stirring for a long time. A plan to remodel the church was attempted in 1994.

"They never got to fundraising," Holtzinger says. "It never got off the ground."

When he arrived seven years ago, Holtzinger had some listening sessions with his new parishioners, and one issue he heard often was that the building "didn't feel like a church."

In his tenure, five brides who attended St. Anne chose to get married elsewhere because the building isn't conducive to a beautiful wedding, he says.

Holtzinger says the Mid-Century design simply doesn't foster a feeling of community — or beauty.

Meanwhile, the archdiocese had a capital campaign going, so all churches had to wait five years for that to be completed before beginning a campaign at home.

In the meantime, a building committee began seriously looking at options. They dreamed big and came up with plans for a new church at a new location, as well as a new office building. The price tag: more than $4 million.

A feasibility study determined that budget was more than the congregation could raise.

Next they considered remodeling again to modern standards. However, the bathrooms are not accessible to many with disabilities. Asbestos is present. A study showed the tiled roof is far too heavy for the structure and would not withstand even a minor earthquake.

It became clear that retrofitting the church would be nearly the same cost as building a new one, Holtzinger says.

Time for Plan C: Build a new church where the old one stands now that is within the budget the study suggested — $2.5 million — that serves the needs of the parish.

More plans were drawn, and eventually the current plan by Ashland architect David Thruston was accepted.

Holtzinger is now gathering a new committee for the design of the interior. He knows the congregation wants to keep many of the special parts of the church, such as the stone angel pedestals that hold up the altar, the wooden crucifix behind the altar, and the tabernacle, which holds the blessed bread for communion.

"We could buy a new tabernacle; they start at $15,000," he says with eyebrows raised. "Or we can get this one replated for about $5,000."

Fundraising will continue until the project is finished, he says. Any overruns will go into an endowment to keep up the church in the future, while also ensuring that when the final costs for the church come in over a year from now, the money will be there.

Whatever happens, says Holtzinger, "This is the last Christmas in this church."

For more about the project, visit churchcampaign.us/gp or stannegp.com.

— Reach reporter Edith Decker at 541-474-3724 or edecker@thedailycourier.com