By Amy Taylor, Special to The Record
SAMUELS, Ky. — For members of St. Gregory Church, it was a blessing last Sunday, June 8, to see ground broken for an addition to the small church in Nelson County.
This building project has been ongoing since 2008, according to Kathy Seyle, who serves on the parish building committee.
To see the dirt shoveled “was just wonderful,” Seyle said. “It was a wonderful feeling to see that we’ve finally made it. We jumped through a lot of hoops to get here — building permits, plans. Now we know it’s finally going to happen.”
When the “Building a Future of Hope” campaign started at St. Gregory, the parish included only an addition to the current church building, Seyle said.
“But because of the generosity of this parish, we’ll be able to remodel the church.”
The groundbreaking will eventually produce an addition of approximately 2,400 square-feet to the church, according to Father Paul Eve, St. Gregory’s pastor. It will also add a larger gathering space where parishioners can meet with each other before and after Masses; a private reconciliation room; and enclosed access between the parish school and the church.
The project also will include the church building’s first public restrooms — another truly welcome addition, parishioners said.
There will be new pews, new flooring in the existing church, an improved sound and audio/video system, new paint, stained glass windows in the addition, a new bridal room, new landscaping, exterior lighting, and a new front entrance with a cross to bring added attention to it.
Adam Cecil, who has been a parishioner of St. Gregory for the past nine years, also serves on the building committee. Committee members have worked diligently on the $275,000 project, he said.
“I felt such a sense of pride and excitement to see us break ground,” he said. “We’re a pretty dynamic parish. We’ve got young and old both. It’s a really friendly place.”
Cecil and his wife, Sarah, and their three children enjoy the small community church atmosphere, he said.
“The church always seemed like it had something extra special about it. It’s really alive,” he noted. “It’s a close-knit community with a real sense of family. That’s what drew us here, and that’s what has kept us here.”
Father Eve agrees with Cecil’s assessment.
“Probably our greatest charism is our spirit of hospitality,” the priest said. “There’s a welcoming that people experience when they come here.”
Building-committee member Kathy Seyle and her husband, Gary, also have praise for the parish school. They have a daughter, Lizzi, who is 12 and will be in the eighth grade at St. Gregory School this fall. It will be the school’s 90th year.
“St. Gregory provides a wonderful education,” the mother said. “The teachers are very dedicated. And there’s a lot of one-on-one because of the smaller class sizes. In the 2014-2015 school year, all of the grades will be in separate classrooms.”
Miss Imelda, as many church members know 89-year-old Imelda Greenwell, was the first to don a hardhat and shovel dirt at the June 8 ceremony. The elderly woman won the honor by selling the most tickets to the upcoming church picnic.
Greenwell, who is still active in the church, has been a parishioner of St. Gregory for 58 years. All of her children attended school there, she said.
Greenwell can recall a time when a priest who lived on the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth campus would come to St. Gregory to celebrate Mass.
“He walked nine miles, all the way down the railroad tracks,” the parishioner said.
During Mass Sunday, Father Eve, who lives in the rectory built where the original St. Gregory schoolhouse stood, reminded the parishioners about the many evolutions St. Gregory has gone through in its development. And he cautioned his parishioners about the inconveniences that will come with this next phase of the building project.
“In our lives, we’re being challenged,” the priest said. “When we say, ‘O.K., Lord, take me where you want me to go — not where it’s comfortable, but where it’s going to be messy.’ That’s where salvation is.”