The ugly orange carpet? A long time ago. The black altarpieces? Old story. The wrong organ? taken care of
A lot of money and sweat has gone into St. Hyacinth Church in La Salle, but now comes a bigger challenge: raising $1.8 million for overdue repairs to the historic church with its distinctive twin towers.
The community kicked off the capital campaign at a Saturday banquet in La Salle, urging community members to dig deep and pledge enough money to get the work up and running by the end of the year.
It’s not that the church is about to collapse – the engineers were impressed with how well it was maintained – but unless the community invests in capital improvements now, there is no guarantee St Hyacinth’s will last for generations to come remain.
“It’s really remarkable,” said Rev. Pastor Tom Otto. “Polish immigrants, who came here with nothing, built this wonderful structure. The brickwork and plaster are in fairly good condition. But it’s still 130 years old and there are some things that are going to be a problem if we don’t work on them soon.”
Once the pledges are received, contractors can keep the church going for another 130 years or so.
First comes a new roof. Then the workers turn to the facade, securing the masonry and setting up part of the brick facade. Finally, the contractors will secure the interior masonry and paint the walls and vaulted ceilings.
“It’s a beautiful church,” said Otto. “We’re going to add accent color and make it even more majestic.”
Other items on the wish list include a new sound system, the redesign of the toilet and, as a special touch, the lighting of the twin towers. Otto said St. Hyacinth’s is a local landmark and the towers should be visible from the city’s streets and green spaces even under cover of night.
The plans were enthusiastically received by some of the dozens who attended Saturday’s presentation.
“Oh, I love it,” said La Salle’s Nikki Baer. “It (the church) needs a lot of love and care so that we can sustain it for another 130 years.”
“We’ve waited a long time for this,” said Sue Hallen of La Salle, a longtime community member. She specifically highlighted the lighting on the towers, adding, “Getting across the bridge is going to be so cool.”
“I think these are beautiful plans and it’s going to be a great success,” agreed Jim Peters, another longtime member of St. Hyacinth’s.
However, Otto surprised his parishioners on Saturday with good news: the capital campaign is already one-third funded thanks to an anonymous donor who pledged $600,000.
Even keeping the church open used to look like a shaky bet. The assessment was conducted just before Otto was assigned La Salle in 2019, creating a daunting laundry list – and that was before the pandemic hit and upset any tentative schedule.
“I think there was some uncertainty,” Otto recalls, “so we did a feasibility study in early 2020, and the study showed it could be done.
“People have the will and the means to make the necessary repairs and pass on what has been passed down to us.”