Digital Access

Access and all Shaw Media Illinois content from your digital devices and receive breaking news and updates from around the area.

Home Delivery

News, features, sports, opinion and more!

Email Newsletters

Sign up for News Tribune email newsletters and stay in the know.

St. Hyacinth considers high-cost renovations

La Salle’s biggest active Catholic church looks at $2 million project

A massive, long-standing Catholic parish in the community is considering renovation work costing up to around $2 million.

About 127 years old and about 10,500-square-feet big, St. Hyacinth Catholic Church in La Salle is considering work to, among other things, its steeples and stained glass windows.

St. Hy’s serves 1,752 parishioners.

The Rev. Paul Carlson, pastor of La Salle Parishes, said a couple years ago, they noticed the towers needed work, so they hired American Structurepoint of Indiana to complete a structural condition assessment report for both St. Hyacinth and St. Patrick.

The report’s cost estimates for renovating St. Hyacinth at 927 10th St., ranges from $67,500 for critical needs that need to be fixed within the next one to two years, up to a total of $930,700 for items that should be taken care of within 10 years.

Outside of the report’s assessment, there are also items like stained glass windows, pipe organ, bells and clocks and more that Carlson said are items for parishioners to consider, and those items bring the total renovation up to around $2 million.

There will need to be repairs on the towers, said Carlson, “They will be repaired one way or another.”

Alex Dittmer notices that St. Hyacinth Church is a place of comfort, familiarity and safety for its parishioners.

He’s directed the church’s choir for four years, so he often hears the stories that members talk about in reference to their gathering place.

“They’re so passionate about their church,” he said about the parishioners. “They love to talk about the church.”

Mary Beth Potthoff of Peru remembers never having to give friends directions to her house growing up because her family lived behind the massive church that is St. Hyacinth.

One of the many positive memories that she remembers is the bells that would tell her to come home for lunch or to come back in the evenings.

She said that both her parents and grandparents as well as her husband’s grandparents were parishioners there and very active in the parish. She currently is a parishioner there and numerous family members still are as well.

She remembers being in the choir on the upper level with the huge organ, and the choir director who played in her youth as well as at her wedding.

“It was always so cool to be up there,” she said. “We have a lot of good memories.”

Parishioners to share thoughts

After the structural condition assessment, the parish council hired Joseph Consulting of Iowa, a consulting company, to develop a repair plan, Carlson said.

Then a feasibility study committee was created to present different repair and financing options at meetings to parishioners. After attending meetings, parishioners were invited for one-on-one meetings with the consulting group to express what they thought about the repairs and finances.

Carlson said this process makes it more objective and gives parishioners an opportunity to speak their minds.

The church hopes to have a report to the parish council by the new year, when the parish council will decide how to proceed based on the feedback.

“We look forward to seeing what people say,” Carlson said about the interviews.

For someone who’s traveled throughout Europe and seen many cathedrals, Dittmer of Marseilles describes St. Hyacinth as a classic, old church, “but there’s something simple about it.”

He said the inside of the structure isn’t ostentatious, instead, he feels the church is more focused on its parishioners who attend.

He said that although others in the community who aren’t people of faith, he thinks the significance of the church’s history should be respected, and this history includes numerous immigrants who were so passionate about their faith they built the area churches.

Breakdown of renovation cost

The structural condition assessment report breaks down repairs by category.

The report estimates “critical” repairs, required to be fixed within the next one to two years, at a cost of $67,500.

Critical repairs include significant health and human safety hazards or violations of building codes or other regulations.

Outside of any immediate health and human safety concerns, critical items are those that contribute to the overall deterioration or stability of the structure, and have associated elevated operational costs.

The report estimates “significant” repairs, required within five years to be fixed, at a cost of $783,200.

These items are high priority repairs based on their function relative to the structure or building envelope, but in the report’s opinion aren’t cause for immediate concern.

“Moderate” repairs, required within 10 years, are estimated at $80,000; these issues are primarily aesthetic in nature.

These items bring the report’s cost estimate to $930,700.

Also listed on the report is a note from Carlson asking parishioners to keep in mind things not included in the assessment but that also are things to be considered.

That list includes:

The air conditioning condensers are old and to his understanding have never been replaced

Radiators, valves, steam traps, steam pipes, controller and filling mechanisms are aging poorly

Stained glass windows are in various states of disrepair (initial estimates on complete repair of all windows is $750,000).

The pipe organ is beyond repair and has been reported as a total loss (a rebuild of the organ would cost more than $110,000)Bells and clocks aren’t working (a new system is estimated at $43,000)

Pews need refinishing or more varnish soon and kneelers need repair

Doors to the church need to be addressed because most exceed the allowed necessary force to open

St. Hyacinth’s statue on the south elevation of the church needs repair and restoration.

St. Hyacinth’s history

The church was organized through the efforts of 100 Polish families in 1874. St. Hyacinth honors the Polish saint, St. Hyacinth. The church was destroyed in 1890 by a fire started by a defective heating system, but then Fr. Ladislaus Grabowski raised funds to build a new church.

A red brick Gothic-styled structure was completed in 1892. There was another fire in 1988, but the church continued to prosper. Each year, a mass is held entirely in Polish is held to celebrate its Polish heritage.
Source: La Salle Catholic Parishes’ website

La Salle parishes by the numbers

St. Hyacinth

10,500 square feet (gross building area)

1,752 parishioners.

About 127 years old (construction completed 1892)

St. Patrick

9,800 square feet (gross building area)

1,151 parishioners

About 171 years old (construction completed 1848)

Ali Braboy can be reached at (815) 220-6931 and Follow her on Twitter @NT_LaSalle.

Loading more