Bishop W. Shawn McKnight stood at the entrance to the former La Salette Seminary Chapel, looking down at the new foundation walls that will become a 4,000-square-foot food pantry warehouse.
He later placed his hands on the Carthage marble flagstones in what was once the sanctuary and will soon become a small chapel.
“The imagination and creativity to envision all of this and to accomplish it is pretty amazing,” he said.
It was his first time back in the future headquarters for Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri (CCCNMO) since Jan. 31, 2020, when he helped kick off the “Open Hearts, Open Doors” renovation campaign.
Joining him during this visit were LeAnn Korsmeyer, diocesan director of parish and charitable services; CCCNMO Executive Director Dan Lester; members of the construction team; CCCNMO personnel and local media representatives.
Metal studs now define the upstairs spaces that will become medical exam rooms, a large community room and a chapel.
Work on converting the downstairs gymnasium to a state-of-the-art food pantry and shower facilities was in full motion.
“You’re going to have a really nice place here when you’re done,” one of the construction workers told the bishop.
Signs of life and growth were everywhere.
Bishop McKnight spoke over the sounds of sawing, drilling, grinding and planning.
“I am filled with gratitude,” he said. “I see a lot of people coming together and working together to see this construction and expansion project come to fruition.
“I have been overwhelmed by the kind words of encouragement and the joy of volunteers who are looking forward to working here,” he stated.
Mr. Lester looked to the past and the future of the building, most recently known as the Shikles Recreation Center.
Catholic Charities bought the facility in 2020 in order to convert it to a new headquarters and a hub of charity and mercy.
“We’re trying to maintain as much of the architecture as we can,” said Mr. Lester. “We want to bring this building into the modern age while acknowledging the long and storied history it has for folks in this community.”
Built in the 1950s, the center stands within view of the State Capitol and in a neighborhood where needs are now abundant.
The completed facility will help meet those needs and many others throughout the diocese.
“This really does give us the capability to do more, along with the space to store goods for distribution in an emergency anywhere in our 38-county territory,” said Mr. Lester.
CCCNMO Development and Outreach Director Cristal Backer talked about expanding the volunteer pool and collaborating with other nonprofit agencies in the area.
Retired local contractor Jim Wisch, a member of the CCCNMO board of directors and the Shikles redevelopment planning committee, can’t wait to get this building into service.
“It’s going to be very useful,” he said.
He’s been working at home on stained glass for the chapel.
“There will be reminders of the past and the future,” he said.
One of the construction workers who grew up nearby recalled exploring the overgrown buildings and grounds after the seminary closed and before the Jefferson City Housing Authority bought the building.
“And now you’re helping to dust it off once again and bring new life in and expand it,” Bishop McKnight observed.
Catholic Charities hopes to move into the building in August, shortly after the agency’s 10th anniversary.
Mrs. Backer noted that fundraising for the project is ongoing, with two matching grants that basically triples the impact of each gift people make toward the renovation.
Bishop McKnight thanked everyone who’s helping with the renovation and all who are “supporting the endeavor through prayers and positivity.”
“This Catholic Charities center will allow our hearts and doors to open even wider for those seeking God’s healing and mercy,” he said.
To contribute to Catholic Charities’ “Open Hearts, Open Doors” renovation, visit cccnmo.diojeffcity.org/give or send a check payable to “CCCNMO” to P.O. Box 104626, Jefferson City, MO 65110-4626.
For information about the ongoing renovations or to inquire about naming or donor recognition opportunities, contact Ms. Backer, at 573-635-7719 or email@example.com, or visit cccnmo.diojeffcity.org.