By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published February 17, 2022
DULUTH—After nearly three years of prayer and generosity, parishioners of St. Monica Church are embracing their newly renovated worship space.
“Building God’s Kingdom from Within,” the theme for the parish’s capital campaign, included interior renovations of the narthex, sanctuary, nave and adjourning areas.
The updates draw the focus to Christ, the altar and the tabernacle, said Father Jack Durkin, pastor of the Duluth parish since 2006.
“The beauty that’s there, the truth of Christ’s presence, the goodness of it is something that we can draw from coming to it,” said Father Durkin.
St. Monica was established as a mission of St. Benedict Church, Johns Creek, in 1994. After a few years of overwhelming growth, Archbishop John Francis Donoghue elevated the mission to a church in February 1998. After years of celebrating Sunday Mass at a nearby high school, the parish community moved into its current church building on Feb. 19, 2000. St. Monica Church is now home to more than 2,300 registered families.
What makes St. Monica unique is the deep creativity and fervor that people have, said Father Durkin. “The people here have always been very creative, hardworking, devoted to Christ, devoted to the vulnerable in the parish. The more I get out of the way and let them do their creative things, good things happen.”
“The transformation of the church is dramatic,” said Paul Meyer, chair of the capital campaign committee and member of the Duluth parish for nearly 20 years. It has changed from a neutral space to a dramatic and beautiful sanctuary, he said.
Fortunately, the renovation didn’t experience a lot of supply chain issues due to the coronavirus pandemic. This was due to needing mostly finished materials because the renovation was of an existing building, Meyer explained.
A cradle Catholic with an extensive background in construction, leading the church renovation of his parish expanded his Catholic vocabulary and knowledge.
“I’ve dealt with construction most of my life,” said Meyer. “I’ve never bought an ambo, never built a reredos. It was a great learning experience for me.”
The three-year capital campaign began in November 2019. Architect James McCrery and Dennis Kelly, senior program manager of Catholic Construction Services, Inc., worked on the $3 million renovation. Construction began in March 2021 and took nearly a year to complete. In addition to expanding the seating capacity in the sanctuary, updates also include liturgical furniture, the sound system, lighting and storage space.
Some upgrades and artistic features, such as the Stations of the Cross, statues of Mary and Joseph and a new baptismal font, have yet to be delivered. Everything is expected to be completed and in place by late summer this year. Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., celebrated a rededication Mass on Tuesday, Feb. 15.
The process and ultimate transformation of the church deepened my love of the holy sacrifice of Mass, said Father Durkin.
“It deepened my love for the flock that Christ has entrusted to me to care for, and just really helped me to draw more and more from our eucharistic Lord to serve the people of God,” he said.