The Des Moines Register
Wednesday, February 21, 1996
Page 5M

By Rainbow Rowell, Register Staff Writer

A group of parishioners of the burned-out All Saints Catholic Church in Stuart refuses to accept a decision to build a new church.

Church representatives say the decision was made because most parishioners didnít want to incur new debt and because restoration would cost more than a new building.

But Richard Doherty, one of about 15 who openly oppose the decision, said church leaders haphazardly surveyed the parish, asked biased questions and didnít provide enough information.

The church was heavily damaged in an arson fire Aug. 22, 1995. Charles Willard of Des Moines is awaiting trial in the fire.

Neumann Brothers, a Des Moines construction firm, examined what was left of the building and estimated the costs of restoration and rebuilding.

Restoring the building would cost at least $5.5 million, said the Rev. Richard Bergman, the parish priest. A new building would cost less than that and less than the $3.9 million insurance payment the church received, he said.

Restoration would be possible, but challenging, said a Neumann Brothers spokesman. The church's original blueprints are lost, said diocese spokesman Tom Chapman, and it would have to be re-engineered.

Bergman said few people had approached him with complaints, but he has heard more dissent since the churchís plans became a matter of media interest. That interest peaked Saturday when a Stuart man climbed onto the church remains, shouting, "Save the church!"

Doherty said Bergman is downplaying the negative reaction to the churchís decision.

"The whole community is shocked about the whole thing,Ē Doherty said. ďIt isnít just the Catholics."

Parishioners were cut off from the decision-making process, he said. They havenít seen any studies and werenít given any information before they took two surveys.

The first surveys, handled by Environmental Design Group of West Des Moines, were distributed at the church during an extremely cold weekend when many people stayed home, he said, and no attempt was made to survey people who missed out.

There was one informational meeting Feb. 8 at which churchgoers could talk to the building committee. Doherty said the chairman and many committee members didn't even attend.

The complaints and sadness are natural, Chapman said.

"There's a grief process going on there," he said, "and it's going to take time."

Back to Newspaper Articles Menu