Repair bills stack up at West Valley parish

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TOLLESON — If it’s not one thing, it’s another. That’s not just a saying, but also a brutal reality for a West Valley parish.

David Martinez shovels dirt from under the parish sidewalk at Blessed Sacrament in Tolleson Feb. 25 to expose a faulty plumbing line. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
David Martinez shovels dirt from under the parish sidewalk at Blessed Sacrament in Tolleson Feb. 25 to expose a faulty plumbing line. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

The 66-year-old community of Blessed Sacrament has faced five major improvement projects since last August. Just when parish leaders thought they were over the hill with only an outstanding plumbing issue to address in the hall and “school” — an independent year-round daycare in space that the parish rents out — a maintenance worker discovered March 1 that a portion of Blessed Sacrament’s hall ceiling collapsed.

The space, which is used for weekly religious education and prayer groups and rented out for extra income, is out of commission for at least six weeks. Parish leaders are grateful no one was in the building when the ceiling and light fixtures crashed to the floor, but will have to find other space for Eucharistic Adoration over night on Good Friday.

“It just seems like time is catching up and everything’s falling apart,” Joyce Bustos, office manager, told The Catholic Sun.

Parish leaders have been able to make do so far. They’ve depleted the budget though and that “to do” list of projects that can’t be ignored keeps growing.

It all started with mold last August at “the school.” A few weeks later, the parish had to replace two air conditioning units there. Monsoon winds and rain brought leaks to light and a new roof was needed for both the hall and the school the same month.

“You can’t catch up on everything you’ve lost,” Bustos said.

Blessed Sacrament managed to get through the rest of fall, then Advent and Christmas without major repairs. Lent has been a different story. Those plumbing and ceiling issues remain.

Now, there’s no well to draw from except the kindness of the community and a small diocesan grant. — Insurance, does not cover the cost — in the thousands of dollars — for the ceiling repair.

“Every week someone has a breakfast on Sunday. We are hoping that all monies form each breakfast will be donated for the hall reparis,” said David Pineda, a member of the parish’ finance council.

There’s been little talk about parish repairs from the pulpit, “the Mass is to preach about the Good News, not the bad news,” a Feb. 19 parish Facebook post read, but word of mouth is beginning to spread. An honest appeal letter handed out to religious education families March 2 seems to be having some steam, Maria Lopez, director of faith formation, told The Catholic Sun.

“Quite simply, I said, ‘Our parish needs us, needs our time, our contributions, our donations,’” Lopez said.

Breakfast fundraisers following Sunday Masses, car washes, yard sales and other efforts are in the planning stages. Parishioners seem eager to donate items for a yard sale and roll up their sleeves in other ways.

Parishioners recently pitched in to create cleaner ramada grounds at Blessed Sacrament in Tolleson. Massgoers during Holy Week now won't have to risk their chairs or shoes sinking into mud while in their Sunday best for outdoor services.  (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Parishioners recently pitched in to create cleaner ramada grounds at Blessed Sacrament in Tolleson. Massgoers during Holy Week now won’t have to risk their chairs or shoes sinking into mud while in their Sunday best for outdoor services. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Plus, there’s one glimmer of hope: parishioners have the recent story of an “all hands on deck” effort to inspire them through this latest series of challenges. A call was put out in February to prepare the fiesta grounds for a cement floor. Parishioners not only responded, but they argued that a 7 a.m. start time was too late and came at 5 a.m. instead. Other abled hands made food for the workers and dropped off donations.

“Many male parishioners that have experience with concrete all worked together. No egos were involved and everyone got along with each other. I marveled at this,” Pineda said.

Over the course of two weeks, a cement floor was poured and set over a 2,400-square-foot space and carried a favorable price tag. Now, Blessed Sacrament parishioners have a solid ground to stand on during its annual fiesta. More importantly, folding chairs will no longer sink into the mud during outdoor liturgies held throughout Holy Week and Easter.

“It was beautiful to see and experience and all the older men said the same thing, ‘This is how it used to be,’” Lopez recounted. She faithfully prays that it can be that way again.

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Blessed Sacrament Parish in Tolleson

To help with repair costs, call the parish office at (623) 936-7107 or blessedaz.org

Follow and support the parish’s fundraising efforts

April 13: Collection of items to support Church-wide yard sale

April 16: Yard sale

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Bustos, office manager, has seen a slight uptick in Mass contributions in recent weeks. She has also been happy to see parishioners sharing their money or abilities with the parish.

“It’s maybe inspiration for others to come forward and help in one way or another in whatever way they’re able to,” Bustos said.

Once the plumbing and ceiling issues are resolved, the parish’s Agape building used for storage and seasonal décor has been deemed unusable for several years. Administration is discerning a solution for that.

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