Catholic church to expand

New sanctuary to seat 600 for services

Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2000

Bursting at the seams, St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church plans to expand.

``We hope to break ground this spring, but we will have to do some massive fund raising first,'' said Louise Miller, director of the office of communications of the Catholic Diocese of Juneau. Miller is also a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish, located in the Mendenhall Valley.

The current church opened in 1962 with a sanctuary that could hold 225. The new St. Paul's will be able to seat 600 for worship services, said Miller.

``When they built it, they figured we would never fill this place,'' Miller said with a laugh, ``and now it's standing room only even for weekly masses.''

Currently St. Paul's conducts four English-language masses every weekend, plus a Spanish mass.

The new cedar-and-stone edifice will rise near the corner of Egan Drive and Mendenhall Loop Road - visible to drivers at nearby traffic lights. The old church will be remodeled as meeting space. The present project is conceived as the first phase of an Atlin Drive site master plan that could ultimately include a new community hall, religious school and expanded senior center.

A Nebraska fund-raising firm has been hired to gather the approximately $1.5 million needed to erect the 10,500-square-foot building. The design, by Juneau architect Tony Yorba, has already won an award. Jensen Yorba Lott received a Citation Award from the Alaska Chapter of the American Institute of Architects during its November statewide convention. The award was for ``superior design in the un-built category.'' The design process was led by liturgical consultants RD Habiger of Albuquerque, N.M.

In addition to its large sanctuary, the single-level structure will feature an indoor gathering space, a smaller day chapel and devotional spaces for individual prayer, small group prayer or reconciliation.

The gathering space is a real necessity in Juneau's inclement weather, Miller said.

``Right now there's the church and the parking lot; there's no place to get in out of the weather and talk to your friends.''

If all goes well, the Diocese hopes to open the church for Easter 2001.

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