Those hoping to enjoy the beauty of Gesu Church’s exterior will continue to see scaffolding instead as Parish Administrator John O’Brien predicts construction will last until November 2014.
“We’re behind,” O’Brien said about the five-year construction project that the church is undertaking. “We ran into more structural problems with the envelope than we anticipated.”
Scaffolding for the front of the church will be disassembled this November according to O’Brien’s tentative plan. Scaffolding will return to the sides and back of the church in late spring.
O’Brien said that the most time-consuming part of the construction process is tuck pointing, where joints between two structural elements are ground out and re-mortared. The variety of materials Gesu is comprised of makes this process much more difficult for the construction workers.
Previous renovations to the church doubled its gutter system capacity, replaced the crosses on both of its steeples, and replaced the windows with a more durable glass.
A new policy will be implemented requiring an inspection to occur at least once every five years to ensure the church won’t get as bad as it was in 2010 when construction first began. O’Brien said the deterioration of the crosses on the steeples were causing safety concerns.
“Something had to be done,” he said.
Approximately $1.5 million was spent on construction this year alone, which was funded by parish fundraising and capital reserves. Marquette, which has a shared service agreement with the church, has not provided any funding for the project, according to Andrew Brodzeller, associate director of university communication.
Only when the exterior is completed at the end of 2014 will workers begin work on the interior of the 120-year-old church, O’Brien said.
Church attendance has not suffered during the renovation process, though O’Brien said he worries this issue may become more problematic as construction moves to the interior.
The Rev. John Schlegel, associate pastor at Gesu, said construction poses a challenge to its parishioners.
“People view construction as a deterrent,” Schlegel said. ”It was a problem during the building of Eckstein Hall, which affected Gesu’s parking lot. But we’ve always had pretty good attendance.”
Some parishioners said they agree with Schlegel.
The scaffolding is not pretty to look at, but it is worth it to restore this landmark church, said longtime parishioner and Marquette alumna Jean Gama, who described Gesu as her “favorite church in the whole wide world.”
In the meantime, students have to tolerate looking at the scaffolding on the building throughout this year and next.
“The scaffolding takes away a lot of the beauty of the church,” said Andrea Hughes, a freshman in the College of Business Administration who sees the church every time she walks to class. “I’m ready for it to come down.”