CHARLESTON—Sacred Heart Church is looking for its own form of resurrection in the shape of renovations, both large and small.
The inner-city church recently received some guidance in that direction from The Citadel when cadets in its American Society of Civil Engineers chapter presented a completed study to Father Dennis Willey, pastor. The cadets, along with area professionals, had been working on the comprehensive public service project for a year.
Weighing in at 100 pages, the consulting report lists all the work that the church needs and the associated costs — from an overhaul of the rectory to coats of fresh paint. The estimated value of the donated research and report is close to $100,000, said Timothy Mays, the professor who oversaw the project.
“It is a tremendous gift. People don’t appreciate how important a gift it is,” Father Willey said. “Maintaining these old buildings is a real challenge … We wouldn’t even know where to begin. We tend to do the cosmetic stuff and ignore the foundation, which is the opposite of how it should be done.”
Foundational work includes roof repairs and electrical wiring. Mays explained that smaller, less expensive items can’t be tackled until the causes are addressed, such as the leaky roof that led to dampness, peeling paint and cloudy stained glass windows. They must also remove small amounts of asbestos and lead paint in the church and large amounts in the rectory, which is one of the reasons Father Willey can’t live there — along with mold, windows that don’t open and an ancient heating and air system.
As much as he’d like to live in the rectory, that isn’t his priority.
Father Willey said his top two items include fixing the water intrusion problems and replacing the electrical system, both of which pose serious issues for the church.
Sacred Heart was built in 1939, and still has the same electric wiring. The pastor said it has become a system of patchwork repairs and he worries about the possibility of sparking a fire.
The roof is also a liability, with leaky spots and rusted out rain gutters and downspouts. Mays notes that when it rains, water streams down the outside walls of the church, causing dampness.
As always, the question becomes how to pay for the work. The estimated total cost is about $300,000 or more, said Mays and Father Willey.
Mays said he and the ASCE chapter will continue to help with fundraising ideas. Earlier, the cadets raised funds to pay a $2,000 insurance deductible so the church can replace their vandalized statues, which were decapitated by a vandal last year. Because it was such a disturbing sight, students also built creative covers over the Heart of Jesus until the new one arrives.
Father Willey said there is no timeline for renovations because fundraising is ongoing.