Update on the Centennial Project
First, I want to thank all of you who have made a pledge or a gift to our Capital Campaign for our Centennial Project. As you know, the Centennial Project will provide much-needed space for both the school and REP with a 26,000 sq. ft. addition to our parish campus and the renovation of our school cafeteria into a parish Social Hall. Your generosity is truly appreciated. Know that God is pleased with the sacrifice you are making. It is a good thing to support this parish project and your kindness is never forgotten.
I know that many of you have heard talk around the parish about the possibility of acquiring the Lancaster Mennonite School on Sandhill Road in lieu of building on our property here on Areba Avenue. Let me explain a little bit of the history behind this.
On March 19 (the Feast of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of real estate!), the Lancaster Mennonite School announced that it would be closing at the end of the school year in June. We were going to have our kick-off for our capital campaign at the end of April but I thought, “It won’t hurt to look at the property.” So, with Sister Eileen and a few other parishioners, we toured the school and property and were mightily impressed.
The school (LMS) is a 100,000+ sq. ft. building on 36 acres. It already has everything we have in our school now as well as what we are intending on building as part of the Centennial Project (media center, new cafeteria, ample classrooms, etc.). Not only that but it had some wonderful rental opportunities that were already in place. A small Presbyterian Church rents office space and uses the gymnasium for Sunday worship and a small Chinese Christian Church rents space regularly as well. On top of that, the Hershey Soccer Club rents some of the fields behind the school. Initially, the price we were quoted was way past our ability to pay so I asked them to keep us in mind if they were going to be selling desks and chairs and other school equipment. We left that day thinking, “What a wonderful opportunity to expand and grow as a parish and school but it just isn’t going to work out.”
Late in May, the property went up for sale and the price was significantly lower than what we were told in April. We decided to have another look at it.
A larger group of parishioners (finance council member, parish manager, facilities director, a teacher, etc.) and some people from the diocese went and inspected the building in much greater detail. Afterwards, we had a brainstorming session and Sister Eileen summed up our thoughts: “It is a no-brainer! We could have much more for much less and have it now!” We all agreed.
I brought the idea of purchasing the property to Bishop Gainer and the College of Consultors (his advisory group on financial matters and the purchase of properties in the diocese). They were unanimous in their agreement that we should actively pursue this.
I sent out letters to our Parish Council, Finance Council, Parish Staff, School Board, and Faculty for their advice. I also spoke regularly with parishioners (actually, anybody who would listen!). There was almost unanimous agreement to keep looking into the possibility.
Over the summer, we began talking to LMS about purchasing the property. We made one offer and when that was not accepted, we went to the diocese and asked if we could raise the offer. The Bishop was very agreeable in allowing us to do this because he recognized what a good opportunity this would be as we moved into our next 100 years as a parish.
All this being said, we made our offer (which was the most we can afford as a parish and also what the diocese was willing to lend us) but, unfortunately, LMS did not accept our second offer. While in the end, this would have helped us save money (especially since the Second Phase our Capital Campaign would go away; the old school would have been used as parish space), I could not allow our parish to bite off more than it can chew and put us in financial straits so that we would not be able to do anything other than pay on a debt! We were disappointed in the outcome but do not regret pursuing it at all!
So, what is the good news?! We still have a wonderful project and great plans to look forward to in our Centennial Project. We move forward and continue with what we originally planned. I just wanted to let you know what has been taking place these past couple of months and encourage everyone to make a pledge. Our goal at this time is for our capital campaign to be a great success! We may not have a brand new school in one fell swoop but maybe God is teaching us patience. We WILL have an addition to our school and a brand new Social Hall but it will just take a few more years! We may have had a little detour on the road but we are moving onward. Keep praying for the success of our Centennial Project!
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