A thriving parish in Georgia is relocating an entire historic church over 900 miles south from Buffalo, New York, rather than construct a new building for their community.
With over 750 families and counting, Mary Our Queen in Norcross, Georgia recently outgrew its current building and is in dire need of additional facilities.
On the other hand, St. Gerard Church in Buffalo, N.Y. was forced to close in early 2008 after the number of parishioners dropped to an unsustainable level. The parish was built in 1911 and modeled after the famous Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
When asked what sparked the notion to transport an entire church, the pastor of Mary Our Queen, Fr. David Dye, said that the concept “sort of developed from the idea using statues, altars, stations of the cross etc. from closed churches.”
“We did that in our temporary (church) to give it a 'traditional' historic feel. Out of that when we came across St. Gerard’s we thought of using parts and the parts were so wonderful we just said why not just move it as it is,” he explained.
“It also was within 10 percent of what we had designed to be built. That blew the mind of the architect. Not only is it 90 percent of what we needed in terms of space etc. But it looked almost exactly like the renderings that the architect had done,” Fr. Dye said.
Besides the historical and architectural benefits, Fr. Dye explained that a year-long feasibility study found significant engineering and cost advantages.
“We get a church that is far more beautiful than what can be built for the same amount of money,” he said. “Fifteen million to do St. Gerard’s and it would cost $40 million to reproduce it today new and the quality would be difficult to reproduce. The stain glass is American and there is not a lot of stain glass made here now.”
On the need for his community to have additional space, Fr. Dye told CNA that his parish is “very active.”
“We have a higher than average participation in activities and programs,” he explained. “Our first priority is the Mass, Adoration and spiritual devotion and life, then education of our young people – we have a very active youth group. We need to build the church so that the present temporary church can become our parish hall and our present parish hall which is way (too) small for our needs can become our youth center.”
Fr. Dye also noted that there “is actually a revival of interest in classical church architecture,” particularly within his own diocese. “Most of the new churches that have been built in the Archdiocese of Atlanta in the last 10 to 15 years look like Catholic churches and use all the elements traditionally associated with churches – traditional stained glass, marble altars, statues, organs – structures that are undoubtedly churches – steeples, vaulted ceilings, arches, and floor plans that focus on the sanctuary.”
A website dedicated to the relocation effort, www.movedbygrace.com, spoke about the amount of support the initiative has gained, stating,“The 'preservation through relocation' of the magnificent basilica-style structure has received support from both communities and from the outside, including the Archbishop of Atlanta, the Bishop of Buffalo, the Archbishop of New York, local and national preservationists, architects, builders, former St. Gerard’s parishioners and present parishioners of Mary Our Queen.”
Mary Our Queen is still seeking the financial funds to complete the move, having raised $3 million out of the $15 million that they need.