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Renovated kitchen expands Springfield church’s fellowship

Chris Pietsch Eugene Register-Guard USA TODAY NETWORK

Four years ago, the Rev. Mark Bentz and the members of St. Alice Catholic Church in Springfield realized they had a big problem.

“We were in a crisis both financially and spiritually,” said Bentz, who has served as pastor at St. Alice since 2016.

Membership was down, the parish was shortstaffed, and the church facilities had a lot of deferred maintenance.

The parish is over 50% Latino and also includes members who are struggling with homelessness and poverty.

One of the goals they identified was an updated kitchen. The old facility was little more than a “warming kitchen” and members felt the ability to share food along with fellowship was key to their mission.

The parish began a perpetual novena to St. Joseph for divine intervention, but they also rolled up their sleeves and started raising money. Patrick Sawyer, a member of the parish, but also a physician assistant for PeaceHealth, reached out to the hospital for support.

PeaceHealth, a Catholic health system that offers care to communities in Oregon, Washington and Alaska and has hospitals in Eugene and Springfield, agreed to provide $100,000 through its Community Impact grant program, but ended up adding an additional $15,000 when costs for the project increased.

The parish was able to raise the balance of the $380,000 cost through other fundraising from private contributors in the community and members of the congregation.

The remodeling project began last October. Michael Soraci, AIA, owner of Agate Architecture, LLC, provided the design and Essex Construction handled the construction. The kitchen renovation provides workflow improvements, additional storage space, modern commercial-grade appliances, ventilation and fire safety systems.

Officials from the church and PeaceHealth gathered Wednesday to show off the finished kitchen

See KITCHEN, Page 4A

Joined by Todd Salnas, chief executive of PeaceHealth Oregon, left, the Rev. Mark Bentz of St. Alice Catholic Church blesses the new kitchen during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Springfield parish.

CHRIS PIETSCH/THE REGISTER-GUARD

Continued from Page 3A

with a dedication ceremony in front of a small group of guests and the media.

Church members still are sorting out how the kitchen will be used, but they hope to host more events as concern for COVID-19 exposure subsides. They have been holding daily masses with reduced occupancy since December but are moving forward slowly in using the kitchen for now.

They also are exploring opportunities to partner with Catholic Community Services to eventually provide meals to community members in need.

Bentz sees the new kitchen and the food they now can provide as a way to help mend the community as the pandemic eases.

“You can’t remain enemies and eat together. You are either going to give up your division or you are going to give up table fellowship,” he said.

“As restrictions begin to wain in the coming months and people begin to come back, we can begin to build relationships again, share food and our rich cultural heritages with each other,” Bentz said. “So we can eliminate misunderstandings and become truly one family.”

Contact photographer Chris Pietsch at chris.pietsch@registerguard.com, or follow him on Twitter @ChrisPietsch and Instagram @chrispietsch.

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