Monday, September 5, 2011

Rockford Register Star’s View: Downtown location best for new Belvidere church

Based upon the sparse coverage which Rockford Register Star has given to this issue, I find it incredible that the editors now  publish “their” opinion.  I find it annoying that no real issue such as height, size and parking are mentioned.  Is smart growth building a “cathedral style” colossus   in a residential neighbor casting shadows upon its neighbors?  Look at the words highlighted in green.  Does the Register Star even know where the new church will be located?

It is interesting that perhaps for the first time,  the Bishop through his Director of Communication speaks of his intention.  I have highlighted that in yellow.

Mary Kaspar is the wife of Michael Kaspar, the paid bookkeeper of St. James Parish.

The following is taken from:



When does a church issue become a community issue? We think Belvidere Mayor Fred Brereton answered the question for us.
Brereton last week wrote a position paper on whether St. James Catholic Church should stay in downtown Belvidere and expand or build a new church on the edge of town on Squaw Prairie Road. He says the church staying downtown is a matter of smart growth and would be the best thing for the community. We agree.
While we’re uneasy about telling a church what to do, staying downtown appears to be the best thing for parishioners, too. In Belvidere, as in many urban communities, the growth is on the outskirts of town.
But downtown is where the need is. Churches, more than any other organization, should be about responding to need.
People in Belvidere are conflicted about St. James. One thing everyone agrees on, though, is the parish has outgrown its current building, which holds only 300 to 350 people.
Six services have to be held on Sundays to accommodate the crowds. The Spanish-speaking Masses are particularly popular; at those services, you can often find parishioners standing outside.
To even use the bathroom, parishioners have to leave the church and walk outside to another part of the building. Obviously, the situation is far from ideal for senior citizens as well as families with small children.
The Rockford Diocese, to which St. James belongs, has proposed a new church a few blocks away across from St. James School. It would accommodate about 850 people. St. James is the only Catholic church in Boone County.
Building the new church downtown at the proposed site requires the City Council to sign off on a zoning change from residential to institutional. The council will vote Tuesday, but the decision shouldn’t be difficult from a civic perspective.
The mayor has offered a strong argument for the rezoning through his position paper. He thinks the principles of smart growth make a downtown location the best choice for St. James. Smart growth goals include preserving open space and farmland, encouraging development where it already exists, and creating places people can walk to and not have to drive.
The 22-acre site at the western edge of town was donated by a parish family in 1998. The diocese “does not now have the intention to relocate the focus of the parish to the other property,” according to Penny Wiegert, the diocese’s director of communications.
“That would create more problems for the parish than it would solve.”
The church has much to celebrate. While other churches watch their congregations dwindle, St. James has a vibrant, committed, growing parish.
The fact so many people care about its fate is good news, not bad.
Much of the growth at St. James is in its Spanish-speaking and Hispanic parishioners. Many of these parishioners don’t have cars. They say it would be tough, if not impossible, to get to the Squaw Prairie site for regular worship.
Transportation is a consideration any community must take into account, but especially a church. Churches should be more committed than most organizations to providing for people of meager means.
As St. James parishioner Mary Kaspar wrote in the Register Star Aug. 19, “The bottom line is that we need a church where we can all worship God together.”
Building downtown is best for the bottom line.

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