Weather did not permit St. James Parish in Arlington Heights to hold the planned outdoors groundbreaking ceremony to kick off the renovation and expansion of its church.
So the church community held what the Rev. Matt Foley called a "groundbreaking of sorts" in its parish center's gym, with the pastor donning a hard hat and posing with the ceremonial shovel pointed at, but not piercing, the floor of the basketball court.
Foley emphasized that the $10.5 million project -- funded with donations -- will make the sanctuary accessible to disabled parishioners. The church, he noted, has undergone no major construction since it was built in 1952.
"Now is the time and the hour when we truly will be able to welcome everyone to the Lord's altar. So we have a lot to be grateful for," he said. "Because of your generosity, we will be able to celebrate Eucharist in a sacred space for each and every one of us, and all will be welcome regardless of physical abilities."
Accessibility will be addressed with the installation of a ground level entrance, an elevator, special seating and first-floor washrooms, as well as additional handicapped parking.
Other additions include new shower facilities for the PADS program, which serves the homeless.
Among those hand to receive recognition was Bill Luehrs of the parish campaign leadership committee.
"We wanted to create an opportunity for anybody, regardless of their handicap status, to be able to come to church," Luehrs said.
Debbie Bolash, a member of the parish construction committee, said the project started as a 40-year plan.
"What we wanted to do was to enlarge the church years ago," she said.
The first phase, completed in 2008, was a new school that allowed the parish to move all students under one roof.
This is the final step, she said, to enlarge the church and make it handicapped accessible.
"It really is exciting," Bolash said. "Folks who have been waiting so long, for many years, to get that church handicapped accessible. And the fact that it's here, it's phenomenal."