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St. Mary's prepares to dedicate new church


February 29, 2012
The new church sits on a bit of a hill, overlooking the 105-year-old church it will replace. And even though parishioners have countless memories of the old St. Mary of the Knobs Catholic Church in Floyd County, the new structure will surely instill memories for generations to come.

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The new St. Mary of the Knobs Catholic Church, located on a 33-acre tract of land adjoining that of the current church, will be dedicated on March 25. Photo by Chris Adams
The new church, which construction crews will finish in the next few weeks, will officially open and be dedicated on March 25. It's adjoining activities building is already in use.

The idea of building a new church came after parishioners contributed funds to purchase an adjoining 33-acre tract of land in 2005. The following year, parishioners, led by Father John Geis, began raising funds for the project. Geis retired before the project got underway, but the idea for a new church remained and the parish worked to finalize plans.

"In 2006, we met with Father John and the archbishop," said J. Patrick Byrne, who serves on the church's executive committee. "The archbishop shared with us his vision to build a new church and activities center. We put together a feasibility study and it was about 50-50 among members. Some members were in favor of a new church, and some wanted an activities center. We decided to do it all together instead of two stages. We were very careful and documented everyone's concerns. We wanted parishioners to take ownership of this project."

The church received $11 million in pledges for the project, and $7 million has already been collected. Funding was borrowed from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to complete both buildings with plans to repay the loan and collect all pledges within the next six years. Byrne said that more than 500 families from the parish have made pledges, as have some people with no ties to the church.

The new church will seat 964 in pews set in a semi-circle pattern. When completed, it will be the largest Catholic church in the region. The vaulted ceiling — 65 feet high — and large windows are an attractive addition to the building.

The activities building, which is completed, is a separate facility altogether. But plans were later changed to include a connector building between the church and activities center.

"The connector building, when finished, will be used as office space," Byrne said. "And we will also have a fellowship hall there. But it will remain a shell for now and will be finished in the future."

The activities center, which has a walking track and basketball courts, has been named the "Geis Activities Center" in honor of the former church leader. Father Mike Hilderbrand now leads the parish.

AML Inc. and Koetter Construction, both from Floyd County, are working on the project. AML focused mainly on the activities center while Koetter has worked on the main church building.

St. Mary of the Knobs was founded in 1823 and is the oldest church in the Indianapolis Archdiocese. The original church was a log cabin, located a short distance from the present church.

"My great-great-grandfather, Thomas Piers, donated the land for the first church," Byrne said.

The church presently in use, built in 1907, will be used as a chapel for weddings and various events.

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