Passing churches on his daily commute from Jefferson City to St. Louis, Brad Copeland thought about what it would be like to work for God.
He’d say: “Lord, I wish I could do some things to help out the religious community with everything I know and know how to do.”
His prayers were answered six years ago when he became the Jefferson City diocese’s director of buildings and properties.
Formerly a state code-enforcement officer, he advises parishes on the best ways to build, renovate, and upgrade and maintain the systems of churches, schools, halls and other buildings.
“I’ve made it my goal in ministry to give all my knowledge to these parishes and to help priests and building committees make good decisions,” he said.
Mr. Copeland is thoroughly versed in building codes, inspection procedures, and the dealings of the good and the not-so-good contractors that operate in these 38 counties.
His Rolodex overflows with names of trusted Catholic architects, contractors and engineers who work at discounted rates for parishes.
Whenever a pastor invites him to inspect a parish property, he makes an exhaustive inventory of potential fire hazards and other safety issues.
“It’s a matter of identifying problems and coming up with solutions so you can have a successful result,” he said.
In the process, he has discovered gas leaks in several parish buildings and made sure they got properly repaired.
“People tend to defer maintenance,” he noted. “You don’t usually look at these things until they become an issue.”
But it’s better and less expensive to stay ahead of problems and fix them in time.
“I look at the whole structure to make sure it’s safe for people coming to worship and for kids coming to learn,” said Mr. Copeland.
He’s always on the lookout for ways to help save money, such as utility-company rebates for energy upgrades, or specialists offering group discounts.
For instance, working with a firm specializing in stained-glass restoration, he helped document and appraise scores of priceless church windows throughout the diocese.
When two such windows were destroyed in a 2013 fire in St. Joseph Church in Edina, that seamless documentation allowed them to be fully restored.
Every three years, he helps all 39 Catholic schools file renewed asbestos-management plans as part of the school accreditation process.
From the earliest phases of construction projects, he works with pastors, parish building committees, architects, contractors and subcontractors, helping ensure that the work is done correctly from the ground up.
“We save money by making sure it’s being done right the first time, so we’re not having to do it time and time again,” he said. “And I understand costs, so I can help make sure a parish isn’t getting taken advantage of.”
Tracking about 50 projects per year, ranging from heating and cooling upgrades to multi-thousand-square-foot building additions, he stays on-call all day and all week.
“I’m here for the parishes,” he said. “I’m their backup. When they need me, they call me.”
Mr. Copeland is always impressed with the workmanship of past decades and centuries, and the love and generosity it has taken to keep these venerable structures safe, useful and beautiful.
He’s happy to help parishes build and maintain with that same kind of foresight.
“You always leave something of yourself in whatever project you’re working on,” he noted. “I love it whenever we can come up with a good solution and we see the finished product.”
The diocesan Office of Buildings and Properties receives support from the Catholic Stewardship Appeal (CSA). Please give generously.