Houston, Texas

Christ the Redeemer Church: Parish Survey & Building Committee Formation

April 10, 2008

SEAN HORRIGAN

Editor's Note:  This article continues from the author's first piece on the "Background and Master Plan" for the new Christ the Redeemer Parish church.

Parish Survey

Perhaps the most important part of the Master Plan was the survey of the parish. After all, the parishioners would be asked to pay for anything that came from the Master Plan. The architects worked with the Master Plan Committee to develop a two-page survey that could be answered by all parishioners at a Sunday Mass (in June, 2005). It needed to be comprehensive enough to cover all areas but easy enough to answer in a 10-minute time span. They presented a template of questions used in other surveys, but we were able to give input to shape it to meet our needs. We asked all parishioners, 16 years of age or older, to respond. They could do so anonymously, but many chose to give their name. There was room for written responses, and many took the surveys home to complete them. As you might imagine, we had no shortage of comments. As pastor, I pledged to read everything that was written. It took me awhile, but I did.

Surveys were also available at the parish office for the next few weeks for those that were not in attendance at Mass the weekend it was conducted. In the end, more than 1,600 were returned. We were told it was the largest response the architects ever had to a Master Plan survey.

The final results of the Master Plan interviews and survey results were returned to the committee in August, 2005. We reviewed with the architects a 40-page report, along with proposed renderings of buildings. It was quite comprehensive and gave a clear picture as to the desire of the parish members and the expected needs over the next 20 years. No recommendations were made at the time; the firm simply reported the data and helped us make sense of it. The determination of the next steps was left in the hands of the Master Plan committee.

Results and Follow-up

The results spoke for themselves. In the survey, the clear number one desire of parishioners was for a new church. It was listed as either the highest or next to highest response on more than 85 percent of the surveys. Cry rooms, of which we have none in the present church, was the second most mentioned need, not surprising given the number of young families we have in the parish. Parking/traffic improvements and a new on-site rectory (the priests lived in a home in a neighborhood two or three miles away) were also high on the list.

Given the responses, the committee agreed wholeheartedly that a new church should be the focus of our attention in the coming year. There was clear support that any church should be built in a Spanish missionary-style to complement our current church, and the architectural firm included some lavish renderings of a proposed church, but it would take quite a bit of work to move from a Master Plan to an actual building project.

My first step was to take the Master Plan to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and review the results with the archbishop. Nothing was going to happen without his approval. He had seen the growth of the diocese in the northwest and agreed that a new church would be necessary in the future. Ideally, the archdiocese would build another parish in this region. While we have neighboring parishes to our south, north and east, there is not another parish to our west for 30 miles. And, as one might expect, that is the area of the greatest growth in our boundaries. Several “master planned” communities were already in place and at least three more were on county developing boards, including one of more than 20,000 acres.

I hoped for some sort of guarantee or definitive answer on the archdiocese’s plan for that growth. Would another new parish be started to our west? Where would it be located and, most importantly, when would it be started? It stood to reason that as pastor of a parish looking to undertake a mammoth building project, I wanted some assurance that our efforts would not be undercut by an upstart parish. This was a major concern and I dare say our greatest hurdle.

But there’s just no simple way to predict future building plans. Clearly, if there were more clergy available, we in Galveston-Houston could start five new parishes tomorrow, so great is our growth and need. However, that is not possible at the moment. So while no guarantee was offered, it looks very likely that any new parish established in the general area of Christ the Redeemer will be at least 7-9 years away at the earliest. We deemed that to be an acceptable timetable, and we do not anticipate it impinging upon those who will have donated to build the new church. By that time, it is likely that a new parish would be a welcomed addition, given with the expected influx of new families in the area.

Having heard clearly from the parish and received approval from the Chancery, our next step was twofold. We needed to begin to formulate what a new church/liturgical space would like, and we needed to determine how we were going to pay for it. We decided to approach both of these questions at that same time.

Building Committee Formation

Before answering those questions, however, it was necessary to bring a Building Committee into existence. The Master Plan Committee had completed its work. As pastor, I felt strongly that while there should be some continuity from the Master Plan to the Building Committee, it was necessary to make a distinction between the two. Each is unique, and though they certainly had commonalities, it was important to get the Building Committee off to its own vision. They would be committed for a number of years, whereas the Master Plan Committee’s work had been roughly a year.

I asked one or two members of the Master Plan Committee to serve on the Building Committee, including our director of liturgy and a man with a background in the commercial building industry. In addition, I asked two women to join us, an older grandmother and a younger married woman with a CPA background whom I asked to keep a close eye on the financial aspect of the committee and work in conjunction with our Finance Committee. We also hit the equivalent of the Building Committee jackpot when a parishioner who is a project manager for a large construction company volunteered his service. His daily work involves projects such as ours, though his company does not build churches and would not be a candidate for the job. I invited him to join the committee, and his knowledge has been priceless. He knows the right questions to ask and the right time to ask them. Having a good Building Committee – not too big, not too small in size (we decided on 7 members in addition to myself), but with the right mix of parishioners to offer insight – is an absolute must. And if you find a Construction Project manager in your parish, by all means, put that person on the committee!

Fr. Sean P. Horrigan is Pastor of Christ the Redeemer Parish, Houston, Texas, USA.

Photo credit: Andrew Spies

READ OTHER ARTICLES BY SEAN HORRIGAN:

A New Church for Christ the Redeemer Parish: Background & Master Plan

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