Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, center, leads a group of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and local dignitaries in breaking ground on the parish’s new rectory in Scottsdale Sunday, June 13. Taking part in the ceremony are, from left, Dcn. Alan Hungate, Fr. Michael Straley, pastor; Fr. Simon Osuchukwu, associate pastor; Bishop Olmsted, Scottsdale Mayor David D. Ortega, Parish Building Committee President Michael Mollere; and Parish Council President Bob Gomez. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

SCOTTSDALE — Construction is formally under way on a new rectory that will allow parishioners and the public easier access to priests who serve St. Bernard of Clairvaux in Scottsdale as well as cut the parish’s rental and utility costs.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted led a group of parish and local officials, including Fr. Michael Straley, the parish pastor, and Scottsdale Mayor David D. Ortega, in the groundbreaking Sunday, June 13. The project will finish the North 124th Street campus that also includes the church, offices, classrooms and a multipurpose facility in the Sierra Foothills neighborhood in the southeastern portion of the city.

Completion is scheduled for mid-2022.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux to Host Bishop Olmsted, Mayor Ortega for ‘Centered in Christ’ Groundbreaking Ceremony

“Whenever we work to the interests of our neighbor or our community and serve them, we are — in a sense — God’s own co-workers. Let us pray for His help, my brothers and sisters, that God will bring this construction to successful completion and that His protection will keep those who work on it safe from injury,” Bishop Olmsted said.

“Thank you for all the sacrifices made for (the church), the hall, classrooms, parish offices, and now, this crowning one. This could only happen if you work together and treasure your faith, and if you want your faith to be passed on from generation to generation,” the bishop continued.

“We’re very, very happy to come to this final stage of what began way back in 1994 (the year St. Bernard was founded), and we are now going to be a complete parish home,” Fr. Straley beamed.

Fr. Michael Straley, pastor of St. Bernard of Clairvaux Parish in Scottsdale, speaks prior to the groundbreaking on the parish’s new rectory Sunday, June 13. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

A rectory as a parish’s final piece is nothing new.

“The rectory is usually the last structure to be added to the compliment of buildings,” Bishop Olmsted explained after the ceremony. “Construction naturally begins with the church. This was always the way it was. We want to build God’s house first, and usually the classrooms follow that, and then the offices.”

The project will be funded directly through the parish’s “Centered in Christ” Initiative, which also includes replacement of the church’s 23-year-old roof and air-conditioning unit, as well as bolstering the parish’s endowment to offset future facilities work.

The new roof and AC unit will cost $200,000 each, while the parish plans to boost its endowment by $320,000. Together, these elements bring the project goal to $1.92 million.

Catholic Community Foundation, a private 501(c)(3) not-for-profit financial institution whose mission is to build the future of the faith by providing sustainable support for those who serve the community, is helping raise money. “We have a committee and are providing them with resources to make asks; to go out into the parish community and solicit some funds,” said foundation philanthropic adviser Andrew Kozusko.

Cost savings

When Fr. Straley and Associate Pastor Fr. Simon Osuchukwu move into the rectory next year, it will save about $36,000 annually in rent, utilities and commuting by the two priests, according to St. Bernard of Clairvaux Director of Marriage and Family Life Ryan Ayala. Fr. Straley lives in an apartment a few blocks away, and Fr. Osuchukwu lives at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Scottsdale, about 13 miles and 20 minutes away in southwest Scottsdale.

While an immediate estimate could not be obtained from the diocese, the new, high-efficiency AC unit will curb energy use and maintenance.

Dollars aside, the project will generate spiritual capital that can best be measured in the increased ability of Fr. Straley and Fr. Osuchukwu to serve their flock.

“Having priests on-site will allow them to drop in on more ministry and prayer meetings. That would encourage and inspire parishioners. Increased confession hours and Sunday afternoon Mass could be considered. Sacraments for the very sick could be facilitated both within their homes and the nearby hospital. Vocations could be fostered. It will be an enormous blessing,” said Centered in Christ Chair Dr. Michael V. Rock.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted speaks with Michael V. Rock and his wife, Carolyn, chairs of the St. Bernard of Clairvaux Centered in Christ Building and Endowment Initiative, following the groundbreaking ceremony for the parish’s new rectory in Scottsdale Sunday, June 13. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

“It’s very important,” echoed parishioner Rey Santos, a retired Scottsdale resident. “If they are living somewhere else, there is a feeling of detachment. If I need to talk to them, I don’t have to go there, or call and wait for them to come here,” he said.

“The shepherd really is with the sheep. It feels as if our father is here,” added his wife, Chona.

The rectory also will bolster fellowship among priests.

Undertaken by Chasse Building Team of Tempe, the structure will cover 3,600-4,200 square feet, including four suites with private patios, a guest room, common area, and 3-car garage. It will offer space for small gatherings as well as living quarters for retired or guest priests and the seminarians they hope to host in the summer.

“I know that is something near and dear to the bishop’s heart — fraternity and brotherhood among priests,” Ayala said.” This is one of the ways we can continue to foster that.”