Bishop Anthony B. Taylor blessed St. John Newman University Parish in Jonesboro Nov. 15, after several long-overdue updates to the sanctuary.
Brandon Weisenfels, director of Catholic Campus Ministry at Arkansas State University, has been working toward renovations for three years. After their original air conditioning unit began leaking, an assessment was completed and it was determined the flooring and ceiling needed to be replaced. The building is 26 years old.
“While we’re doing this (air conditioner replacement) let’s look at everything in the sanctuary and update everything,” Weisenfels said.
They set out to raise $300,000 for renovations, after an insurance claim of $62,000, Weisenfels said.
Renovations began in December 2019 and were completed Nov. 14. The new features include hardwood flooring at the altar; carpet throughout the sanctuary, sacristy and confessional; a new ceiling and a commercial AC unit; and new paint on the walls.
A family donation from the trust of parishioner Bernard “Mickey” Bridger, 74, who died Sept. 3, 2019, went toward new Joseph and Mary statues, a suspended crucifix and a back altar for the tabernacle. The parish did not previously have a crucifix, but a risen Lord cross with a metal outline of Jesus.
“He was a very big supporter of the students,” often bringing snacks for them, Weisenfels said. “(Bridger) and Father (Francis Madanu, the former pastor) had just talked about the need to fix the church the night he passed away,” Weisenfels said.
Another major donor also contributed to the renovations.
The parish has about 80 registered families and averages about 40 people at Mass, primarily college students.
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