By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — MORRISONVILLE — With the completion of the new rectory and religious education center at the Roman Catholic Community of St. Joseph’s and St. Alexander’s, the Rev. Scott Seymour is literally breathing easier.
“Thanks be to God,” Seymour said during a recent tour of the new digs on the campus of St. Alexander’s in Morrisonville.
The new building, known as the St. Brother Andre Christian Formation Center, was constructed into the side of a knoll overlooking St. Alexander’s Church on grounds that used to house the old rectory. It features a 3,800-square-foot ground floor for religious education and a 3,800-square-foot second floor for the rectory.
The $440,000 facility was built over the past year by Morrisonville Construction Co., Luck Brothers Inc. and Duquette Remodeling.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have so much help with this, and everyone really helped out, and we got a great deal on this building,” Seymour said.
The parish decided to build a new home after taking a long look at the future of the Catholic Church in the area. Seymour explained that as more and more parishes consolidate, the thought was to have one central location.
“Morrisonville is kind of in the middle of the county, and we thought this would be a good place for deanery meetings and other functions that people could attend,” he said.
The condition of the old rectory on the grounds of St. Joseph’s in Treadwells Mills also hastened the decision to build a new home.
The old rectory had heating, electrical, plumbing and structural issues. It was estimated that to get the building in proper shape, it would have cost between $150,000 and $200,000.
“That’s about the cost of a new home, so we figured why not build a new building instead of investing all that money into the old building where it would be hard to recoup,” Seymour said.
Parishioners will pay for the building with monthly contributions over three years.
While the plan was to build a new rectory, the idea of adding religious education space soon popped into the equation. When the Jubilee Hall was built onto St. Alexander’s Church in 1999, it was not designed for religious education classes because St. Alexander’s School down the road on Route 22B was still up and running.
“We had classes in the school so we didn’t design the hall for classes,” Seymour said.
But the school closed two years later, and religion classes had to be stuffed into the Jubilee Hall.
The new classroom space features a long hall with a kitchen and bathrooms. Partitions can be erected to create small classrooms to accommodate the 100 or so students in the church’s program.
“Together with the Jubilee Hall we can have up to 12 classrooms,” Seymour said.
Students will fill the center for the first time when classes start in the middle of September. The parish is taking registrations for new students until the end of August, including those in Confirmation 1 and 2.
The classroom space can also be used for other events and activities, such as the annual harvest dinner.
Upstairs, the rectory provides spacious comfort for Seymour and two other priests, the Rev. William Gordon, retired, and the Rev. Peter Riani, who will be retiring from St. Elizabeth Church in Elizabethtown next month.
Seymour, who has pastored the church for two and a half years, said it is nice to have the retired priests on hand.
“We wanted a central location so they could retire here and be near Plattsburgh, where services they might need, like medical, are close by,” he said.
“It’s also nice for us because if I have to do something they can help out with Masses and things like that.”
The rectory is a far cry from the old place. It has a large, modern kitchen with a small dining area and a large common room for people to gather. Seymour’s office also sits on the main floor.
“We didn’t want to go overboard, but we didn’t want to go underboard either,” he said.
“We came up with a very nice and functional place that will serve our needs.”
The stress of the project has been hard on Seymour, not to mention the fact that he had to live in the old rectory until the new home was done. He is convinced that mold in the old rectory was the culprit in his contracting pneumonia this past spring.
“Now I am living here, and I’m not sick any more,” he said, adding that he literally is breathing easier.
The new facility was formally dedicated on July 8 with a ceremony featuring Bishop Terry LaValley of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. It was named after St. Brother Andre Bessette in honor of the Montreal-born religious leader who was canonized in 2010.
Brother Andre lived from 1845 to 1937 and used to visit St. Alexander’s from time to time. A rocking chair he preferred sits in the entrance to the new building, where an exhibit portraying his greatness is located.
Seymour takes solace in knowing that Brother Andre will be watching over the new home.
“When we started this, we wanted to fill two needs with one building, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it, and we are looking forward to many great years here,” he said.
Email Joe LoTemplio: firstname.lastname@example.org