Parishioners of Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church said good-bye to its storied church facility with a holy day mass.
A vigil mass was held Wednesday and the Feast of the Assumption mass was held Thursday morning in the church, located at Sixth and Cherry Streets.
Shortly afterward, workers began removing the pews from the church which was dedicated 57 years prior.
An effort was organized to save as much of the interior pine paneling as possible and, on Monday of this week the stained glass removal was under way – pines that line the church property were topped back in July.
After the church is razed a new one will be built in its place. The new church will seat over 170, roughly double what the existing facility can comfortably accommodate.
However, of late the church has been cramped to say the least.
Bishop Kenny Stengel of Ratcliff said Sunday Mass attendance at the church is routinely in the triple digits and that the church "is seeing new people every week."
"When you get 120-something in a place that seats 84 it gets cramped," said John O’Bar, who has attended Our Lady of the Assumption since 1976.
Still, many find tearing down their church is not easy.
"It’s sad to see the church go, but it’s a nice problem to have," said Stengel. "It is a vibrant and growing church."
O’Bar said the one problem with needing to expand was there is nowhere for it to go in terms of land. But that was only the beginning of the problems.
"The biggest thing is it is structurally unsound," said O’Bar. "There’s no way to attach anything and make it look good."
Attendance at the church wasn’t all that much of an issue until about seven years ago, O’Bar said, when a missionary "went out and got people to coming."
Then former Father Don Tranel picked up the torch.
"He’s a Glenmary, so his job was to go out and build the church. He really got it started," said O’Bar.
Now, the attendance is heavily youth oriented. O’Bar estimates about six in 10 are 25 or younger.
Tranel is expected to be back for the dedication of the new church. Members have a completion date of Easter service next spring targeted.
Of course between now and then parishioners will really understand cramped quarters as services and classes will be held in the Parish Center, located next door to the church.
The project has drawn the attention of state Catholic officials. An article was published last week in the Arkansas Catholic news magazine.
According to a church historical document the church actually formed in the city in 1953 and met in the armory and later in the court room in Booneville before the new church was constructed.
The Parish Center was dedicated next door to the church in 1983 and the statue outside the center was dedicated 10 years ago – on Aug. 15 as well.