BUILDING A NEW HOME
By 1986, the population of Catholics in the St Thomas More Parish was 13,000, or already over four times the maximum carrying capacity of the church building. It was also projected that the Parish population would grow to 14,600 by the year 2001. At the same time, the Archdiocese declared that St. Thomas More will be the only parish within the boundaries of the Calgary Trail on the east, Whitemud Drive on the north, and the North Saskatchewan River on the west. Statistics provided by the City of Edmonton indicated that the population in that area would increase from 58,500 in 1992 to 98,900 in 2012, an increase of 69.34%.
The inadequacies of the existing church were many and obvious. According to the Archbishop, one was chronic overcrowding, while the most critical in the view of the Parish Council was its lack of facilities to accommodate the youth of the Parish. Without the participation of its young parishioners in Parish liturgical and community life, St. Thomas More Parish risked stagnation and a withering demise. The future of the Parish is dependent on the active involvement of youth, but that involvement requires a church facility which will foster social interest and participation as well as spiritual growth. Many more opportunities would be available to enhance the spirit of com-munity within the Parish, particularly for youth, with facilities which could be provided in a new church building.
In September 1986, the Parish Council appointed an Ad Hoc Committee to investigate the viabil-ity of the existing church to serve the Parish needs. During its deliberations, the Committee was particularly aware of the relationship between the physical building and the spiritual needs of the parishioners. In September 1987, the Committee issued two reports which led the Committee to conclude that the existing church facility was inadequate to serve Parish needs due to structural limitations.
Following deliberations with the Archdiocese and several workshops, an action plan was estab-lished to maximize worship seating capacity in the short term and to identify long-term options. A Vision Plan Committee was established in September 1989 to modify the interior of the church, resulting in the renovations made in 1990.
In March 1990, a 5-Year Planning Committee was established by Parish Council. The mandate of that Committee was to evaluate all the alternatives available to alleviate the deficiencies of the church. The work of that Committee was continued by the New Building Feasibility Committee, which was established in September 1992. The work of those Committees resulted in A Communication To The Parishioners Of St. Thomas More Parish On The Status Of Considerations For The Construction Of A New Church, which was issued in January of 1993. On June 21, 1993, Parish Council unanimously passed a motion that "since the existing church building is inadequate to accommodate the expanding spiritual and community needs of its parishioners, the Council strongly recommends to the Pastor that St. Thomas More Parish proceed to construct a new church. The Pastor accepted that recommendation and the Archbishop endorsed the concept.
A strategic plan entitled Preparing To Meet The Needs Of Our Parish Community In The 21st Century was adopted by Parish Council on November 23, 1993 as the framework for proceeding with the construction of the new church. Included in that strategic plan was a planning structure which provided for the formation of a New Building Committee, as well as a proposed timeline for the project. Established under the planning structure were a Communications Subcommittee, a Land Acquisition Subcommittee, a Finance Subcommittee, and a Design Subcommittee.
The acquisition of a suitable site was identified as the first major step of the project, and as early as 1990 the 5-Year Planning Committee had begun to search for potential sites for the new church. In February of 1994, the Land Acquisition Subcommittee presented to Parish Council 3 sites, which were displayed for parishioners at an open house held on March 6, 1994. Based on com-ments by parishioners, discussions with the Archdiocese, and inspections by both the present and incoming Pastors, on May 24, 1994, the Land Acquisition Subcommittee recommended and Parish Council approved a bid for an unserviced 5-acre site at 23rd Avenue and Terwillegar Drive. The bid was approved by the Archdiocese Review Board. On August 18, 1994, St. Thomas More was the successful bidder on its selected site for a purchase price of $350,000.
The acquisition of the land for the new church in August of 1994 set the stage for the conceptual design phase of the project. The Design Subcommittee worked for almost a year gathering infor-mation, attending seminars and studying current trends in the design of Catholic churches in North America. In September 1994, the Design Subcommittee distributed to parishioners a questionnaire on their preferred design features for a new church. In October of 1994, the results of that ques-tionnaire, together with the latest liturgical design information, were applied to develop a Functional Plan for the new church.
On October 21, 1994, an invitation was sent to 9 architects and 9 contractors for a conceptual design based on the Functional Plan and a fixed budget of $2.5 million. By the deadline of December 14, 1994, four proposals had been received, three by joint teams of an architect/con-tractor and one from a contractor. An analysis of each proposal was made, including the experience, expertise and liturgical sensitivity of each proponent, a comparison of each proposal to the Functional Plan, and the financial implications of each proposal. Early in January 1995, the Building Committee hosted a presentation by each of the submitters, and the Design Subcommittee held a separate session to review the conceptual designs. On January 14, 1995, an Open House was held in the church hall for parishioners to view and comment on each of the con-ceptual designs.
Based on parishioners' comments, the recommendation of the Design Subcommittee, and the information from the presentations. Parish Council approved on January 24, 1995 a motion to enter into negotiations with Barry Johns Architect Ltd. and A.J.H. Construction Management Ltd. to develop the final design and to determine the contractual terms for the construction of the new church.
Our Contractor obtained a Development Permit for the project on May 11, 1995. Upon applying for a Building Permit on about May 25, 1995, the City advised STM for the first time that the first developer in the subdivision would be required to pay a substantial sum for reimbursement of oversized servicing to the subdivision. The City considered STM to be a developer, and it would therefore by required to make that payment before its Building Permit would be issued.
The Building Committee and STM's Contractor carried on negotiations with the City and the lead-ing developer in the subdivision from June 1995 until early in 1996 without much progress being made. Finally, in February 1996, the Building Committee solicited the assistance of Councilor Patricia Mackenzie and Mayor Bill Smith to resolve the dispute. Under their leadership, the parties finally agreed to an equal sharing of the required payment together with an accelerated recov-ery formula. On April 23 and April 28, 1996 respectively. Parish Council and the Parish Finance Committee approved the revised Project Budget and the Cost Sharing Agreement with the City.
On April 29, 1996, the Building Committee presented the project to the Archdiocese Project Review Board for its final approval. On May 8, the Cost Sharing Agreement was signed by the Archbishop and on May 21, City Council approved the Cost Sharing Agreement and the Cost Recovery Agreement. On May 26, the land was blessed by Father Mike McCaffery on behalf of the Archbishop. The Servicing Agreement with the City was signed by the Archbishop on May 30, 1996 and STM was issued its Building Permit on May 31, 1996. The Archbishop signed the con-tract to formally retain our Contractor on June 18, 1996, and construction of the new church offi-cially began. Construction was slowed somewhat during the Fall months due to inclement weath-er, and delays were experienced in the Spring of 1997 due to further negotiations on servicing. However, by April 1 construction was substantially complete and plans were made to officially move to the new church late in April.
The focal points of the new church include a building which enhances the spiritual dimension of liturgical celebrations, which facilitates emerging liturgical practices, which minimizes physical conditions which detract from concentration during worship, and which serves a broadening range of parish community activities. Space is also provided to accommodate activities through which the spiritual life of members of the parish community is integrated with and expressed in various ministries, community service, learning activities, and social events. Essentially, the vision fore-sees the church building serving a broader range of parishioner needs, thereby allowing the Parish to become a more significant part of each parishioner's Christian life. This is the vision which guided the planning process and the design and construction of the new church building.
Submitted by Al Maydonik & Bob MacLean
Co-Chairmen Building Committee
April 7, 1997