Readers may recall that Saint Benedict Center had been embroiled in litigation surrounding our chapel project that we so enthusiastically announced over six years ago. Yes, I said “had been.” The litigation is over, and we won. Now we have the joyfully arduous task of building our new chapel. Thank God! And may He help us. What follows is excerpted from a letter being sent to major benefactors. Anyone interested in the Center’s apostolate will want to read this update on our activities.
A lot has been happening with our Crusade this long, hot summer. And now I am happy to report that the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary are building and expanding in several ways.
On the Feast of Saint Bonaventure, I received a telephone call from Jonathan Halle, our architect. He called to inform me that the chapel building we have long fought to build will cost us $750,000. This is the figure Jonathan got from our general contractor, a very respected builder named Sylvester Wrenn.
The fact is that the bad economy has helped to make building costs much more reasonable. We’re getting a lot more building for our dollar than we would have when the economy was better. Houses that cost more than this are not uncommon, but we can now finally realize our long awaited House of God for $750,000.
A Major Legal Victory
We have fought six years for our right to build. In a landmark civil and religious rights case in New Hampshire, a Cheshire County Superior Court judge ruled that our right of free exercise was violated by the Town of Richmond. This was the judge’s decision in a motion for summary judgment. (You can read a PDF of that order.) It took a long time, but rather than allow the case to go to trial, the Town elected to settle out of court. The settlement included a cash payment from the Town’s insurance carrier.
We invested most of that settlement money, after paying our attorneys, on needed building repairs and maintenance of our present physical plant, which is now more functional and beautiful than ever. Even with the cash settlement in hand, we could not build the chapel, because the litigation was not yet over (keep reading to see why).
The Town also agreed, almost a year later, to drop the outlandish thirty plus conditions the Planning Board imposed on us. It was these conditions — some impossible, some illegal, all expensive — that brought us to the courts in the first place. The litigation was complicated by a group of “interveners,” Richmond residents hostile to the Center, who became a third party to the case. They dragged things out and made the proceedings more costly for both the Town and the Center.
But now it’s finally over, appeals and all — after two agonizing years of site plan review and four years of litigation — and we have prevailed! Or, rather, Our Lady has prevailed through us. Deo Gratias!
We’re Going to Build!
With our rights thus vindicated by the courts, we will proceed with this project. While $750,000 is not a lot for an edifice of this nature, it is a lot for us!
Thankfully, all the design, engineering, and site-plan review is done and paid for. Unfortunately, it will take over three months to get our state permits renewed. That will put us very close to winter, which makes it impossible to break ground in New England, so construction will not begin until April of 2012. Building could take four or five months, which means that Our Lord will be reserved in His new sanctuary around August or September of 2012, God willing.
In the meantime, I need to raise the funds for it.
I have approached our bank to discuss a revolving line of credit — a loan — to get our new chapel up as soon as possible, because we need it. I do not like dealing with banks, especially to take out loans. It is possible that we might be able to spare the Center this burden of a mortgage. That’s why I’m asking your help.
Can You Pledge Your Help?
I am seeking pledges from our generous supporters — not cash, but only pledges now. The big bills will not start to roll in until early April, but I need to know how much to borrow from the bank — if anything. In honor of our little Carmelite patroness, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, I’m asking that you pledge the amount you care to give by her feast day, October 3, 2011. I would welcome pledges before that date, but I want to give you time to consider a matter of such gravity. I ask that the actual donation be made by the Feast of the Epiphany: January 6, 2012. This is also the Feast of Saint André Bessette, who, with Saint Joseph, has been patron of this effort since we began planning — over eleven years ago! Saint André, you may recall, built the Oratory of Saint Joseph in Montreal.
Are you willing to make a pledge to support this project?
In the new IHM Chapel, the Brothers and Sisters will memorialize our major gift donors with a large plaque at the entrance. Utilizing one of Saint Benedict Center’s cherished “memory items,” we will arrange your names according to the order of the heavenly hierarchy:
Seraphim: $100,000 or more
In the name of the Queen of Angels, whose Immaculate Heart this chapel will honor, I am asking you to join the celestial choirs. In these days, when church closings are a sad reality for dioceses all across the nation, doesn’t it feel great to erect a new house of worship for the honor of God and the exultation of the Blessed Virgin Mary?
How much can you pledge? (Yes, we do take online donations.)