By John Burton
RUMSON – Half of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church is gone – demolished to make way for the new.
It took a little getting used to for church officials who had difficulty seeing the church – with its long history – intentionally being torn down.
“It was hard to watch it get started,” said the Rev. Michael Manning, pastor of the church, 30 Ward Ave., recalling how in July construction workers began the process of dismantling the rear portion of the church to prepare for the expansion and renovation project.
Looking at what remains – the front portion of the structure, up to where the altar was located and will again be, the steeple topped by the cross atop and the front entrance – Manning said he is struck by “its simplicity.” That made the pastor think about the church’s beginnings in 1895 and the spiritual role it has played in the community since then.
The actual severing of the back end of the building was accomplished in just two days with two workers operating what Manning described as large chainsaws and cherry pickers. After the building was bifurcated, other workers then helped with the demolition of it and the former church rectory and hauled away the debris.
The work “was so quick,” it took Manning by surprise.
Having the demolition done during the summer worked out well because the elementary school was closed and the students weren’t on hand.
“I think some of the kids would have been upset” seeing the demolition, Manning said.
Manning acknowledged there were some historic preservation advocates who were not pleased about the work and the loss of part of the original building. But Manning insisted the project has taken into consideration the site’s history and the new building will complement it.
As the work continues, Manning said church staff members have been getting a lot of questions, and have seen people coming by to take photos of the half of a building and the deep pit that was dug behind it for the future work.
“Mostly, they ask when will it be finished,” Manning said.
People have been “a little surprised at how big the hole is and how little of the original church remains.”
Pastoral assistant Lori La Plante, observed how reaction to the work has broken down by gender. Following Sunday Masses, which are being conducted in the elementary school’s gymnasium, women expressed some nostalgia about the loss of the old building; men were excited about the scope of the work and how quickly it was accomplished. “It really did split right down the middle,” La Plante said.
The church project was discussed and planned for more than a decade, with Holy Cross officials looking to expand facilities to accommodate its growing congregation.
The project is expected to be under construction until late 2014 and is likely to cost about $6 million, with Holy Cross representatives conducting a capital campaign to cover costs.
Next week, workers are scheduled to start laying the foundation. Once that is done the construction will start moving forward at a good clip, Manning said.
“We’ll now be on the con-struction part of it,” he said.