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You would have to be a man of faith to ask for $3 million, joked Monsignor John Tosi, but the pastor’s prayers were answered by the parishioners at St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Whitestone.
Tosi started a fund-raising campaign last fall to renovate the towering house of worship on Clintonville Street after 100 years of wear and tear started to show, and the church has raised about $2.6 million so far.
On the whole, the church has retained its majesty. The vaulted wooden ceilings still command awe and the stained glass windows allow in the same filtered light that has characterized the building since it was erected in 1898 by farmers who settled in the area.
But upon closer inspection, cracks have crept up in portions of the brickwork. The mortar has eroded in other areas. Along the seams where two brick surfaces meet, the walls have allowed water to wend its way inside and damage the interior.
And water damage has rendered unusable a whole wing of the church, once used to conduct simultaneous masses but more recently used as a parish hall.
“We are a very old parish, and that is a blessing,” Tosi said in a recent interview. “But our buildings are also old.”
Tosi estimates that about 3,000 families are members of the parish. In the spring of 2011, he put together a committee to tap into their feelings. He wanted to know if now, despite the economic downturn, was the time for capital improvements.
He received a resounding yes.
“They felt we should do it,” he said. “I think the results speak for themselves.”
First Tosi asked some of the more well-off parishioners to commit a donation to be paid over a five-year period.
But by the time he formally announced the campaign in September, he had received nearly half his goal of $3 million.
Tosi expects to reach the mark by the end of January.
The money will go toward first repairing the gutters and outer brickwork of the church and school, and then the interior.
“Restoring the buildings we have will help us do our mission and ministry,” Tosi said.
But a new building could be in the works if the campaign exceeds its goal, according to Dennis Ring, a parishioner and former student of St. Luke’s.
The school has never had a proper gym nor auditorium, Ring said, citing his experience of playing dodgeball in the “gym-a-terium” when he was in school.
If St. Luke’s can raise another $1 million to $2 million, the church will be able to tear down the unused convent in the lot next door and construct a place for the students to play, perform and attend cultural events.
Ring stood in the empty church with Tosi recently and recalled the history of the church’s founding.
“If farmers built this 100 years ago, we should be able to preserve it for another 100,” he said.
Tosi recalled a parable from the biblical Book of Peter, which referred to a church as made of stones, but a congregation made of “living stones.”
Basically, both need care, he said.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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