Bishop James P. Powers stands, with Fr. Showri Jojappa (Joseph) Pasala, at the back of St. Anne’s Church in Boulder Junction with the new gathering space behind them. The church’s renovations were blessed June 18. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

This summer, two diocesan churches are celebrating the completion of major building projects, bringing to fruition plans developed decades earlier.

St. Anne’s, Boulder Junction

When plans for the St. Anne Church were initially presented by parishioners in 1958, the vision called for a gathering space of approximately 2,000 feet in addition to the worship space. For multiple reasons, the full concept was not implemented.

Fr. Joseph Pasala, who became the parochial administrator in 2015, inherited the unfinished plans and took the initiative to create a nine-member building committee. That committee first met in October 2017.

“The old plans were dusted off, the parish surveys were reviewed, and the questions asked again,” Therese Safford shared in an April write-up about the project. “If we build it, will they come?
“New ideas germinated. Enthusiasm started to take hold. There was a lot of debate about the cost, size of the project, and what the parish really needed.”

The motto for the project quickly became, “Gather Us In,” taking a cue from the Marty Haugen hymn.

It was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that the Fundraising Committee was formed, with the bulk of funds raised coming from the motivated efforts of one man with purpose. In total, almost $3 million was raised. Safford states that even the most skeptical of the building committee members, particularly those who had been involved since the late 1990s, began to believe.

“And build it we did,” she affirms. “Sixty-four years after the founding parishioners had a vision, ground was broken May 9, 2022, and a determined Building Committee and their priest persevered to bring that vision to life.”

Bishop James. P. Powers blessed the renovated church and dedicated the gathering space on June 18.

St. Anthony, Cumberland

The thought of building a new church in Cumberland was “nothing new,” according to Parish Life Coordinator Dcn. Steve Linton. In a message he wrote at, he noted it had been talked about for decades. Since Dcn. Linton moved to the area in 2002, he was aware that the reason the parish center had been built so far back from the road was because of the future new church plans already considered.

Since Dcn. Linton’s assuming the parish leadership role in August 2014, he was aware of the brick church’s disrepair, “and the only responsible solution was to move forward toward the building of a new church.”

At the time he thought the best approach was the make some repairs to the existing structure to allow more time for the parish’s investments to grow. When Bishop Powers was contacted for permission for the repairs, with support from both the finance committee and pastoral councils, they received response that they should look again at the feasibility of the new church project rather than splitting funds into two projects.

An engineer was invited in the fall of 2017 to inspect the church. The assessed needs were watertight integrity, replacement of heating/cooling systems, increased seating, addition of gathering area and handicapped accessibility.

“At the end of the day,” Dcn. Linton reported, “It was determined that a project of such magnitude could be done, but it would cost more, if not significantly more, than building a new building.”
With an initial gift of $500,000 given by one individual in 2013, which had been invested in the Mission Diocese Fund, and another $100,000 gift in 2015 as seed monies, the financial means provided the pathway towards the new building project.

“We’re not just throwing an old building away,” Dcn. Linton assured in his online message. “We will honor it within elements of the new building. We are seizing an opportunity to provide for future generations of Catholic men, women and children in our faith community … God has blessed us with the opportunity and the ability.”

In July 2022, the construction contract with Northwest Builders was approved and Bishop Powers gave his authorization to proceed with the $1.2 million project. Ground was broken on Sept. 9, 2022, and on July 12, Bishop Powers celebrated the “Rite of Dedication” of the new St. Anthony the Abbott Catholic Church in Cumberland.

In conversation with the Catholic Herald, Dcn. Linton acknowledged the tremendous challenge of adjusting to a new building with the many memories, special moments and family connections to the old church. While a specific plan for taking down the old church is not yet in place, he added that “everything is connected to heartstrings,” but also shared his confidence that the heart of the faith of the parish community will navigate it with a strong family spirit.