Sara Pascarella knows her church, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Liverpool, won’t hold out much longer.
“We don’t know how long we’ll be able to stay in the building in terms of codes and inspections,” said Pascarella, a member of the church’s building committee. “Right now, we’re okay, but the building is old and it’s small. It’s just not doing what it needs to do anymore.”
In a time when many churches face declining attendance, IHM has the opposite problem: it’s booming. The church, built in 1960, has grown to more than 1,400 families, and it’s struggling to serve them. Though IHM offers two basketball programs (Catholic Youth Organization and the Samuel J. Piraino Youth Basketball league), neither can use the church for games; they have to rent space from nearby Chestnut Hill Middle School. Of the 300 children in the parish who are eligible to attend Vacation Bible School, there is only enough classroom space for 50. People have actually been turned away from church dinners because there wasn’t enough space to seat them.
Recognizing the need for a change, the church began raising money five years ago to construct a new building.
“We needed it for years,” said parishioner Anne Piraino, another member of the building committee. “It’s really time to get going on this.”
The church met its initial fundraising goal in 2006 and held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new structure. Unfortunately, things hit a snag after that.
“The Diocese held it up with their reconfiguration,” Pascarella said. “We didn’t know if we’d still be open. We couldn’t move forward until they made their decision.”
Fortunately, IHM was spared from the chopping block, but the retirement of its priest, Father John Ahern, presented another setback in terms of fundraising.
“There have just been so many changes,” Piraino said. “It’s been hard to keep the momentum going.”
Fortunately, the new priest, Father Daniel O’Hara, shared Ahern’s feelings about the need for a new church. IHM is now ready to kick off its next round of fundraising.
And what better way to kick it off than with a silent auction?
“We obviously needed a new form of fundraiser,” Pascarella said. “Back when we first started talking about the renovations, someone suggested a silent auction. Now we decided to do it.”
The building committee, which needs about $700,000 more to proceed with the project, will be holding a fundraiser from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday April 25 at the Ramada Inn on Buckley Road. Tickets are $20 per person or $30 per couple and include hors d’oeuvres, coffee and a variety of pastries. They are available in advance or at the door.
Guests will have a chance to bid on a number of impressive prizes, including gift cards, golf lessons, an overnight stay on Keuka Lake, gym memberships, jewelry, concert tickets and more. All items were donated by local merchants.
“We’ve been working endlessly to get donations,” Piraino said.
The event will also feature a cash bar and live music from Letitia and the Z Band.
All money raised will go towards the reconstruction of IHM. The new building will include new classrooms, expanded space for the church’s food pantry (including room for refrigerated and freezer foods that currently can’t be accommodated) and a new gym. And the event will feature a special guest.
“The very first ticket we sold was bought by Father John,” Piraino said, “so it’ll be like the old and the new coming together to celebrate our church.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.