CHARLESTON—There is good news for parishes who want to build or remodel: Changes have been made to make the process a lot easier.
Now, instead of creating a presentation of their needs and driving to Charleston to present it to the new Building and Renovation Advisory Committee, the commission is coming to them.
Cristina Natividad, building and renovation coordinator, said it is already a more positive and efficient system.
Before, representatives from a church traveled to Charleston and explained what they needed and why to the building committee. This was the case whether the parish wanted to build an entire new complex with church, parish hall and school, or just an adoration garden.
Natividad said it could be very frustrating for presenters.
“Sometimes they would travel up to four hours to give their presentation and the building committee would say ‘OK, looks good. Thanks!’ and that would be it,” she said. After a 20-minute presentation, they were on their way back home.
She said she heard from plenty of people who thought the system could be improved.
The main improvement is the creation of a site review committee that travels to the parish to view the location and plans. Because they can see for themselves what everything looks like, they are able to give feedback and suggestions, Natividad said.
Father Timothy M. Gahan, administrator of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Spartanburg, said they hosted the review team recently to discuss plans for a new church. They had a working lunch and toured the area.
“It was a very positive and very favorable experience,” he said. “I think it’s a far better way for the committee to get a better understanding of what’s going on.”
Father Gahan added that walking the property gives the review committee a visual of the church’s needs that is superior to just being told.
The building commission has also established a design review committee for later in the process. It is comprised of technical people who will look over architectural drawings and can offer advice, such as ways to save money or improve safety features, Natividad said.
She said the building committee schedules two site reviews each month and tries to cluster their visits to cover as many requests as possible. So far, they have visited three parishes with another two on deck.
“This is a much easier and user-friendly process,” she said.
Father John Zimmerman, administrator of St. Anne in Florence, said he has been through both processes and much prefers the new way.
He said it is important for members of the diocesan building committee to visit the community so they can see for themselves what the needs are and speak to parishioners.
Father Zimmerman added that textbook responses don’t always take into consideration the personal complexities that factor into building issues.
“They needed to see our perspective, to see where we are and where we need to go,” he said.
To further help groups looking to remodel or build, the diocesan department created a website with detailed instructions and sample forms that may be downloaded and copied. Go to www.catholic-doc.org, click on Diocesan Departments then Buildings & Renovations.