An artist’s rendering shows the new St. Michael the Archangel ministry hall. (submitted photo)
By Jane Bartnett
In early March, St. Michael the Archangel, Siesta Key’s only Roman Catholic Church, officially re-launched its $5.25 million capital campaign to build a new ministry hall that will hold meeting and office space, as well as a full kitchen.
A separate structure, designed as a cloister or covered walk with outdoor spaces and tropical gardens, will stand alongside the hall on the 9-acre church campus.
A second $750,000 fund-raising effort will fund the complete renovation of the 60-year-old church.
First announced in 2019, a year after flooding ruined its original hall, St. Michael church officials paused the capital campaign in March of 2020 when COVID-19 restrictions were put into place.
In January of this year, a $500,000 gift from longtime parishioners Patty Smith and her father, Maurice “Moe” Dinneen, made it possible for the Rev. Michael Cannon, St. Michael’s parish priest, and the church’s campaign committee to jump-start the effort.
“My prayers were answered,” said Cannon.
That week, Cannon asked Jim Holt, chairman of the St. Michael’s capital campaign, to announce the good news to the parish during a televised Sunday mass. The half-million-dollar donation, Holt reported, was made on behalf of the Eluned & Edward Russell Charitable Foundation at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.
“I want to have a new center to bring people back together,” said Smith. “My Dad and I hope this gift inspires others who are just as passionate about our church and church family.”
While announcing the re-launch of the campaign, St. Michael’s also reported that architect Sean Williams of Carbon Design & Architecture of Sarasota was appointed architect-of-record for the project.
“It will be a truly special place with a mix of outdoor gardens and beautiful buildings,” said Holt. “When complete, we will have new office and educational space for the parish.”
Cannon added that “it will also allow us to have room for community groups, weddings and celebratory functions.”
To keep the parish community informed of the campaign’s progress, St. Michael’s began holding a series of 30-minute outdoor information sessions. Held under a tent on the site of the old parish hall, Holt leads a discussion of the campaign and presents a short-video virtual-walk-through of the completed project. Sessions are held every Sunday at 2 p.m. and on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5 p.m. The meetings will be held through April.
“Anyone is welcome to attend,” Holt said.
With close to 900 families who are registered members of the parish, St. Michael’s also welcomes many seasonal and vacationing Catholics.
“We have a lot of people who tune in to watch our mass on YouTube each week from many places,” said Cannon.
According to Holt, there are “as many of 400,000 Catholics from around the world who visit Siesta Key each year.”
The goal, he noted, is to reach many of them.
Looking ahead to a new parish hall, gardens and a complete renovation of the church itself that will “have a flow between the buildings,” St. Michael’s pastor said that he has great hope, optimism and gratitude.
“I want to thank all of our various parish committees that are making this project a reality,” he said. “Everyone has been incredibly generous in helping us to get to where we are.”
Recalling the catastrophic water damage that took place nearly three years ago, the memory of that grim 2018 day still haunts him.
“It was during vacation bible school,” Cannon said, when “we had a major plumbing issue and the aging pipes gave way. The hall flooded, the floors were ruined, and the walls were found to be damaged beyond repair.
“We had to tear the building down. It was 60 years old, built below flood level, and the cost to bring the building up to code was $2.8 million.”
He credits the Siesta Key parish of St. Boniface Episcopal Church and its generosity in sharing its meeting space with St. Michael’s for helping the parish to make it through.
“They have been great to us,” he said.
With the loss of the parish hall and the worst days of the pandemic behind them, Holt and Cannon are now focusing on making the $5.2-million capital campaign a success.
As of mid-March, Holt reported, the campaign had more than $2.7 million in collected donations. Pledges stand at $1 million, and written commitments have also begun coming in.
When 80% of the total funds have been raised, construction on the new parish hall project will begin.
“We are still welcoming gifts and family-naming opportunities,” said Cannon.
A ground-breaking ceremony is on the pastor’s 2022 calendar.