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Annunciation Parish transforms school into church

Annunciation Parish transforms school into church

By Terry Dickson

KILN – From the outside, Annunciation School resembles your typical school building.

However, take one step inside and you will hardly believe your eyes at the transformation that has occurred, as what once was an average, run of the mill gymnasium has become a beautiful worship space for Annunciation parishioners.

For more than a year now, Annunciation parishioners have been attending weekend Masses in the school building while attending weekday Masses and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the “old” church, which dates back to the late 1800s.

“We wanted to renovate the church because it hadn’t been renovated in quite a while,” explained Annunciation pastor Father John Noone.

“We wanted to put on some paint and make it look better and that was over a year ago. Then, when we got down to that work, we found that the wood had decayed, so we set about repairing the church.”

The renovations to the church prompted the parish to hold its 2008 Christmas Masses inside the school gymnasium.

“We had Mass there for two or three weekends and people began to like the space over there,” Father Noone said.

“So I asked the parishioners if they would prefer to have Mass in the school on the weekends or in the church and 81 percent of the people said they would prefer to have Mass at the school.”

That set into motion plans to renovate the gymnasium into something more closely resembling a church.

Archbishop Thomas Rodi signed off on the plans to convert the gymnasium into a church.

“We began to research to find out where we could get different things to renovate the gym and make it look more like a church. That’s how the whole thing started off,” Father Noone said.

Ivey Contractors of Bay St. Louis completed the renovation of the gym in two months, roughly mid-October to Christmas Eve of 2009. During that time, parishioners gathered in the adjacent parish hall, which is where CCD classes are held and where the parish coffee shop and bookstore are located.

Father Noone emphasized that in addition to being used for daily Mass and adoration on Mondays and Tuesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., the church is also available for weddings, baptisms and funerals. Father Noone said the parish intends to eventually hold perpetual adoration in the church.

The increase in worship space has resulted in an increase in weekend Mass attendance.

The old church seats 200 and the new church seats 415. However, on Christmas Eve 2009, almost 575 people were able to fit into the downstairs portion of the church. They could have conceivably packed in more people, but the choir loft was out of commission.

Father Noone said what remains to be done to the gymnasium is mostly small stuff. The parish is awaiting the arrival of ten stained glass windows that are slated to be delivered in March.

The windows as well as the rest of the church’s furnishings were purchased from King Richard’s Religious Antiques in Alpharetta, Georgia.

King Richard’s basically takes items from churches, whether the church is being shuttered or just happens to be getting rid of particular items, and makes sure that those items are placed back in churches and do not end up on places like eBay or in a flea market.

“You hear about those kinds of things being available with churches closing down, but, when you go and look for them, you can’t find them,” Father Noone said. “So, King Richard’s has been a real blessing for us.”

Father Noone said the company epitomizes professionalism.

“When they moved the pews down here, I went around looking at the pews to see how good they are and I see small pencils still in the pews,” he said. “In other words, they had moved them so gingerly that even the pencils didn’t fall out.”

Father Noone said he is very pleased at how things have fallen into place with the overall renovation.

“But it’s something we didn’t plan,” he said. “The Lord planned it. We didn’t plan it at all.”