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St. Stephen church to be razed

St. Stephen church to be razed

Former parish site will serve spiritual, educational and social needs of neighborhood

SOUTH BEND – The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend has announced that St. Stephen Church, 1102 W. Thomas St., South Bend, will be razed this month. However, the former parish site consisting of about two acres will continue to be used to serve the spiritual, educational and social needs for the neighborhood community. Ziolkowski Construction Company, South Bend, is handling the razing of the building along with the disposal of any hazardous materials.

Effective May 31 of last year, S.t Stephen Parish was closed, and the congregation was consolidated with nearby St. Adalbert Parish at the corner of Huron and Olive streets.

According to diocesan officials, the St. Stephen Church building is near collapsing, and the estimated cost to repair both the former worship facility and the school would exceed $4 million.

“In this case it seems better to spend money on programs for the people instead of raising money to repair and maintain buildings,” said Father Robert Schulte, vicar general of the diocese.

Items that can be used for the liturgy have been taken to St. Adalbert’s, said the pastor of Christ the King Parish, Father Thomas Jones, CSC, who last year was appointed as the coordinator of the church’s artifacts. Larger objects, such as the pipe organ, went to St. Mary of the Lake, Culver, and the bells were sent to St. Pius X, Granger, Father Jones said. “Any remaining artifacts have been sold to King Rciard’s Antiques, of Atlanta, Ga., a firm that specializes in recycling Catholic church interiors to parishes throughout the country who, for example, may have experienced a church fire.” The Atlanta firm had a specific church in mind for the stained-glass windows, he related, as well as the pews, the altar and its accompanying statuary, the pulpit and the light fixtures. In addition, he said, Bishop John M. D’Arcy is considering a memorial plaque to honor the Hungarian Catholic immigrants who built St. Stephen more than 100 years ago.

The church property will be given to El Campito, a daycare program under the direction of Rosa Rickman. El Campito currently is using the first floor of old St. Stephen School. This daycare program is growing, and El Campito is considering a larger facility with a playground and suitable off-street parking.

The former rectory is being used by House of Hospitality for the poor of the neighborhood under the supervision of Father Michael Baxter, CSC. Modeled after House of Hospitality founded by Dorothy Day, a Catholic lay worker for the poor, the facility will enable people to live, work and pray in community, thus continuing the spiritual presence of the church in the neighborhood.

Finally, plans are being discussed to dismantle and move the grotto at the rear of the church property to another location.