For Our Lady of Loretto Parish, the closure of its church to public Masses from March to October had a silver lining; it expedited a planned-for church renovation that done later, would have taken longer and been more disruptive to church life.

“The timing could not have been better,” said Annie Troy, longtime director of confirmation and youth ministry in an after-Mass video shown to parishioners on Oct. 4.  “We were able to take advantage of the closure to put our plan into place.”

As one on a parish team called ‘Rebuilt,’ Troy and other members along with parish administrator Father Tony Vallecillo, are continuing the ‘physical and spiritual renewal’ envisioned for the parish by Father Costello.

The parish renewal group took its name and guidance from a book by the same name, “Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter”(Ave Maria Press, 2013).

Authored by Father Michael White, pastor of Church of the Nativity Parish in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and Tom Corcoran, his lay associate, the book is the story of how they saved their parish from inevitable decline by “rebuilding parish culture.” They now help leaders at other Catholic parishes to do the same and traveled to Novato last year to help the parish identify its most critical goals. 

The dark, 1960s-era vestibule has been transformed into an open entry hall with comfortable seating and warm lighting meant to be a visual invitation to join, to stay. The wall separating the sanctuary and the vestibule will be replaced with windows for the same reason.

TV monitors have been installed in the entry to message useful parish information; another set in the sanctuary will make Mass readings and song lyrics more accessible to all, but especially newcomers. Woodwork and pews were sanded and refinished to restore their mid-century beauty, and all manner of glass and brass was cleaned, polished or restored, among the many improvements.

Parish renewal began in 2018 under Father Costello’s leadership when a small group of parishioners and administrative staff with a “shared concern about the state of our parish” began meeting to discuss solutions, said Troy.

The problems were not unique to Our Lady of Loretto; declining Mass attendance, lack of parish involvement by young families and the aging and death of longtime parishioners.

Father Costello summed up the challenges facing the parish in a January letter following a parish survey completed by almost 900 parishioners in December 2019.

“Our active members are well into the retirement phase of their lives, and our young families, the future of our parish, are not actively engaged with the church,” he wrote. “If we stand by and do nothing about this current reality, I am afraid there will not be a future for Our Lady of Loretto Church.”

Full story at Catholic San Francisco.