Diocese breaks ground on $7.5 mil. project

NEW ULM – With prayers and songs, and probably a few muttered wishes that the snow would go away, the Diocese of New Ulm broke ground Friday on its new Pastoral Center, a $7.5 million project to replace the small Diocesan Center built in 1960.

Most Rev. John M. LeVoir, bishop of the New Ulm Diocese, led the prayers and the digging on a sunny but chilly afternoon, where a brisk wind kept blowing wet blobs of snow from the nearby pines onto the spectators.

The new diocesan center has been eight years in the planning. The old Pastoral Center was built in 1960, when the Diocese was three years old. At that time the center served as a residence for Bishop Alphones Schladweiler, with plenty of room for the few offices needed for the diocese.

But over the years the diocesan administration grew to 20 different offices, and the technological needs of the center grew as well. Time took a toll on the building, and a 2004 survey of the building revealed corroded and leaking pipes, faulty and inadequate wiring and mold caused by condensation. Estimates determined the cost of bringing the old building up to snuff would be about the same or more than building a new building.

In January 2011 the Diocese started a $15 million capital campaign, entitled “Christ Is Our Life,” to raise funds for the new pastoral center. Half of the money is going back to the diocese’s 76 parishes to use for their own needs.

“We are about a million short of the goal,” said Bishop LeVoir after the groundbreaking. He praised the generosity of the people of the diocese, who contributed to the effort. He said the parishes have already been using their share of funds for a variety of projects, from new roofs to foundation repairs, to window projects, to setting up endowment funds for future maintenance.

“It has been a blessing for the parishes as well,” said the bishop.

YHR Partners of Moorhead is the architect of the project, which is being built on nearly three acres of land between 5th North and Sixth North along North Highland Avenue. The building will include 28,320 square feet of space, room enough for a chapel, a lobby, a multipurpose room, 28 offices, four conference rooms, and all the other amenities for the diocesan staff now and for years to come.

Construction is expected to take a year. Donlar Construction Company of St. Cloud is the construction manager. A variety of local firms will be subcontractors. MR Paving workers are poised and waiting only for the snow to melt and the ground to dry to start excavating the site next week.

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