St. Mary’s ornate 1896 church building will remain as Ridgefielders have long known it — for the near future, anyway.

Monseigneur Laurence Bronkiewicz announced the parish will be “deferring” plans to expand the church building, although an effort to “refurbish and refresh” the building is expected to proceed.

Last June, the parish announced plans to retire the 350-seat, 1896 church on Catoonah Street and build a new 750-seat seat church on High Ridge Avenue — facing down Catoonah Street toward town hall.

After a mixed reaction from both parishioners and the general public, the plan was dropped in favor of the idea of expanding the old church — which is now also being put aside.

“For some time, we have been talking and thinking about our historic Church, a church to which we are all very attached,” Msgr. Bronkiewicz said in an announcement shared at Masses the last weekend of June.

“During our 2010 strategic planning process, the idea of expanding or building a new church surfaced,” he continued. “About three years ago, a local architectural firm helped us do more thinking and to develop several architectural options, based on a very extensive parish survey.

“Last year, as you know, we did a feasibility study. And a lot more consultation and thinking followed, including the preparation of preliminary drawings on how to accomplish our expansion goals, as well as a careful and prayerful discernment process.”

Fund-raising campaigns

Msgr. Bronkiewicz said he and parish leaders met with Bishop Caggiano to inform him that St. Mary’s would be deferring its master plan to expand the existing church.

The monseigneur cited two major reasons that factored into his decision:

  • “Our own need to increase our parish offertory to help meet our operating costs;
  • “Second, and just as important, is the fact that very soon, our diocese will be launching a major diocesan capital campaign to support the church’s mission through all of its charitable and educational efforts, ministries and programs…

“Some of the monies raised through the diocesan campaign will return to the parishes,” he said. “However, as you can imagine, it would be difficult to handle two major fund-raising campaigns at the same time,” Msgr. Bronkiewicz said. “So we are deferring our church expansion project.

“At the same time, I also want you to know that we will be moving forward to refurbish or refresh our aging church, dedicated over 120 years ago back in 1896. To do that work, we hope to use funds from the sale of our rental properties. Given the age of our church and the use it gets, there are many things that need to be addressed.”

In his speech to parishioners, the monseigneur said that the church would be hosting “open parish or town hall” meetings in the fall.  

“We will also set up a link on our parish website to receive any suggestions you may have,” he said.

Response

Responding to questions through parish communications manager Carolyn Haitsch, Msgr. Bronkiewicz and parish planning and operations director Dick Camuso said there had been a “very encouraging” reaction among parishioners to the announcement.

“The love for our historic church by our entire parish family has been expressed to me over and over again and encourages me as we look forward to the future,” Msgr. Bronkiewicz told The Press last week.

Regarding the potential sale properties, they said the parish owns two houses on Bryon Avenue and three on High Ridge Avenue “that are prospects to be sold.”

A refugee family that came to the town late last year through the sponsorship of the Resettlement Committee of Ridgefield has been living in one of the houses owned by the parish.

They will be able to stay until the end of this year as had previously been planned, Haitsch said, and the house may be sold after that.