Dear St. Agnes Community,
As more and more of us are coming together in person for Mass it is wonderful to finally get to meet so many of you in person after nearly a year of zoom, online streaming and just seeing half your face above the masks! It’s hard for me to believe it’s already been 10 months since Fr. Alejandro, and I joined the community of St. Agnes. I am grateful for all the graces of this past year.
I want to take this opportunity to update you on what is happening in the parish. The staff, the parish council and the finance council have been working hard and have been a source of great support and encouragement to me and Fr. Alejandro as we try to be good stewards of the gifts of this parish. As we’ve listened to individual parishioners, the pastoral council, and the finance council, we have taken your concerns and ideas and have come up with some priorities for the next several months.
Stewardship is the key. We say the stewardship prayer at every Mass on the weekends and it is clear to me that the community of St. Agnes is as committed to the life of the parish as it is generous in supporting it. As part of this stewardship, I will describe the projects and their expected costs.
Thanks to Fr. Ray, I joined a parish that has been well-cared for. I am very grateful for his kindness and support. Because of the pandemic, there were some projects that had to be put off at the end of his tenure, but I am happy to let you know, we are moving along steadily in our care and stewardship of the physical plant of the Church, Rectory and ISLC building.
As we prepare to return from the COVID 19 pandemic, we want to have our Church, looking refreshed, and painted and new so that our facilities are welcoming and inviting to all.
The Archdiocese owns the buildings and they told us a while ago that we needed to attend to several projects. The biggest was to repaint the Church and Rectory and ensure that some of the deterioration of the wood got repaired.
After consulting with the Archdiocese, Maureen and I met with three
contractors approved by the Archdiocese and they offered bids for the work. We also consulted a paint company for the best paint and colors. We were fortunate to be able to get a bid for far less than we expected to have to pay – less than $100K to repaint the front of the Church (the sides and back are in very good condition and don’t need repainting). All four sides of the rectory will be repainted. We will also be restoring the doors of the church by sanding, varnishing, and weatherproofing them. The front of the church will be a fresh, off-white color with a subtle accent in the middle to make the church stand out. Many people in the neighborhood have told me that they’ve walked by the church for years and never really noticed it!
We will also be getting a larger sign that says, “St. Agnes Catholic Church” and we received a donation of a lovely tile mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe to go up on the Right side of the church above where the small plastic statue of Mary used to be. Poor Mary endured a lot of abuse from disturbed people, so that statue has been moved to the ISLC patio. The tile mural will be high enough to avoid vandalism.
I take responsibility for the color of the rectory! I know there is no point in arguing over colors and taste- some people will love the colors; some will hate it. I was looking for something that fits the character of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood -tasteful but colorful. I hope more people like it than hate it, but I know it’s impossible to please everyone.
We will also be repairing the front steps of the church as directed by the Archdiocese. This will cost us about $8,000.
This is a good time for us to do this. We have the money in our capital funds for such projects and the project came in at more than half of what we expected to pay.
With some of the money we saved in the painting project we (the Staff and the Finance Committee) decided to renovate the St. Francis Room across from the small chapel on the Page Street Side of the Church. We have been having daily Mass in the small chapel for a few months now. It is a lovely little space, but it needs some work.
We will replace the worn-out old carpet with a nice wooden floor and an area carpet, and we will replace the chairs and altar with something newer and nicer that match. At the same time, we are consulting with an architect to make the entrance to the chapel safer – currently there is a strange angle from the ramp outside the chapel that creates a constant tripping hazard. We will re-engineer the entrance so that it will be safer, more aesthetically pleasing and wheelchair accessible (it currently is not accessible for wheelchairs). The cost will be about $7,000.
The plan for the St. Francis room is to take the current two-room space and open it up into one large room, leveling the floor so that it is all on the same level. We will upgrade the bathroom and the kitchen area to give us the flexibility to use the space for meetings, small functions, and classrooms for religious ed. The remodeling of the St. Francis room for example will help us expand our range of ministries. The cost of this project will be about $75K.
The Urban school is interested in renting the space for classrooms during weekday mornings, so the income from that rent will pay for the renovations in a few years. We won’t be able to use the old gym anymore because the Urban School will be renovating the whole building to become a performing arts center for the school. Having the larger St. Francis room will give us some more flexibility for both Parish and ISLC programs.
Speaking of the ISLC, I want to again express my gratitude for Grace Salceanu’s thoughtful and prayerful stewardship of the ISLC during her tenure as the director. As we look forward to the continued success of the ISLC, I want everyone to understand that the Spiritual Life Center as you know it will continue with all the great programs that it had both pre-pandemic and during this past year.
I incorporated a 501c3 non-profit called the “Jesuit Urban Center” which will give us far more flexibility in fundraising and grant-writing for the continued work of the ISLC. For many years there were discussions of how to make the ISLC more sustainable. The idea of the Jesuit Urban Center is to be the sponsoring organization for St. Agnes’ ISLC. It will also be a vehicle for us to work together with St. Ignatius Parish, USF, and St. Ignatius Prep on social outreach programs.
As we enter this Ignatian Year, celebrating the 500th anniversary of the conversion of St. Ignatius, the four Jesuit works in the city are ready to collaborate in many projects. We need a “center” that will facilitate the Jesuit institutions to collaborate.
The goal is to reach communities that until now have not been served. We hope that the gift of Ignatian spirituality will be extended to Spanish speaking, communities of color and immigrant communities that reflect the diversity of our multicultural city. We will also be able to grow our outreach to the homeless, to former prisoners and to inter-faith programs.
The old elevator in the ISLC patio was installed when the area was a parking lot. It served the community well for 15 years but over the past few years it has been inoperable. Repairing it would have been expensive and because the ISLC is handicapped-accessible, the repairs were no longer needed. I looked into donating the machinery to veteran’s groups or other groups supporting people with disabilities, but no one wanted the equipment. So I had it removed. The result is a much-expanded space on the patio. We now have nice patio furniture, a new outdoor barbecue grill and even the fountain has been restored! The patio is available for use by anyone in the parish.
We are moving toward an online booking system for the ISLC building and eventually for use of the St. Francis Room and Rectory Parlor. We’ll have more information about this once our system is up.
Finally, we have had numerous complaints about the sound in the Church. As you know, we upgraded the sound system in the Church after the 125thAnniversary celebrations. There are some technical tweaks we need to do to improve the quality of the sound. We also want to offer headsets for people who are hearing impaired. Hopefully those with digital hearing aids will simply be able to tune into the sound system via WIFI. The cost of these improvements will be about $14K.
We want to make sure everyone can hear the great music from our choir! With thanks to Frank and the generosity of our choir members we will continue having choral music at all the Masses through most of the summer (we may slow down a little in August while Frank takes a much-deserved vacation!)
This Pentecost, there is so much to be thankful for at St. Agnes. The Holy Spirit continues to inspire and unite us!