Release Date: November 6,2020

St. Bernard Parish to Launch ‘Moving Forward in Faith’ Campaign

Historic Akron church aims to raise $1.5 million to restore 115-year-old building.

AKRON, Ohio – Historic St. Bernard Parish is announcing its launch of the ‘Moving Forward in Faith’ capital campaign to raise funds for necessary repairs and improvements to the 115-year-old church located in the heart of downtown Akron. The purpose of this campaign is to inform parishioners, the greater Akron community and the general public of the ongoing restoration and to seek gift contributions to fund the project.

The project was commissioned to address the church’s structural deficiencies, especially the iconic twin bell towers. The planning process began in early 2019 when a large crack was discovered on the interior of the south bell tower. Soon after, a large stone fell seven stories from the north bell tower. As a safeguard, a protective scaffold was immediately erected around the base of the towers and other stones were temporarily secured until permanent repairs could be planned and made. Ohlin & Reed, a local engineering firm, was retained to review the crack within the south bell tower, as well as the floor framing within both bell towers. THP Limited Inc., a structural engineering and building envelope consulting firm, performed an assessment of the exterior stone walls and roof of the church. Until the initial repairs were completed, the bells of St. Bernard went silent for nearly one year.

Given the urgent nature of the work needing to be done, engineering design by THP Limited began in the Fall of 2019. Construction began in March 2020 thanks to the efforts of Drake Construction Co. (also currently working on the nearby Mayflower Manor project). The exterior building repairs, which soon followed, are ongoing and led by HMH Restoration, the same company that worked on the church building in the late 1990’s. Warren Roofing & Insulating Co. and Dependable Painting Co. are also significant participants as project subcontractors. The exterior masonry repairs are extensive and include removal and resetting of the stone water tables with new stainless steel anchors at each floor of the towers, stone patching, mortar repointing within the exterior stone and the brick within the interior of the towers, replacement of low slope membrane roofs, repair and painting of the window frames with replacement of the joint sealant, and cleaning and sealing the sandstone exterior with material that will make it more resilient to the elements. The work is on track to be completed by Christmas.

In order to pay for the church restoration and begin immediately, St. Bernard received emergency loans from a special building emergency fund at the diocese of Cleveland and is now ready to kick off the public phase of its campaign to pay the funds back to that the next church that needs them has them available. If St. Bernard surpasses its goal of $1.5 million, it will not only be able to pay back its loans but will also be able to begin raising funds to address several additional needs it has including a much-needed elevator or lift, air conditioning engineering and soon-needed slate roof repairs. The parish is also pleased to announce its purchase of an improved microphone and sound system through its regular budget, allowing those in the back of the church to hear better, and the addition of a T-Coil hearing aid broadcast system thanks to the support of the Knights of Columbus.

‘Moving Forward in Faith’ allows the physical structure of St. Bernard to remain landmark on the Akron skyline and a beacon to all people for years to come. “People are often amazed at the beauty of the inside of St. Bernard, reminding us of the immensity of God’s plans for us and who we are within those plans. Parishioners and visitors are often impressed with how the original builders of the building were able to build it at such a low cost in 1905. As they look back, I hope people 50, 100 and even more years from now will receive similar encouragement from what the St. Bernard parish and greater Akron communities were able to accomplish in 2020 during a global pandemic, guided by Holy Spirit,” Fr. Chris Zerucha, Pastor of St. Bernard, said.

The public phase of the campaign begins this month with presentations to members of the parish and a press conference at 11:00 a.m. on Oct. 14 in the church side altar. The conference will be live via the Parish’s Youtube, Facebook and Sermon.net channels. The conference will be open for anyone to attend with proper social distance and mask requirements observed. After the press conference, the parish will hold two more public receptions that day at 1:30 p.m. in English and at 7 p.m. in Spanish, available via parish media, too. At the receptions, a detailed presentation on the restoration will be made, questions answered and support options outlined. Meetings of various kinds will continue with individuals and groups throughout the remainder of the campaign which is expected to conclude on December 31, 2020.

To expand community involvement and provide additional opportunities to give, there will be a series of COVID-safe live musical performances throughout the campaign, including the world premiere of brand new music composed and performed by Ohio vocalist Madelyn Hasebein, who has performed with the Cleveland Messiah Chorus, the Cleveland Chamber Choir and the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra. That particular performance will be held at 3:00 p.m. on November 15, 2020. The performances will also be broadcast live and available online afterwards. The live tickets will cost about $75 per ticket. Only 100 live tickets will be sold in accordance with state safety guidelines. An unlimited amount of online passes to the performances will be available at $25 per pass. A lecture on the history of the church and media tour of the bell towers and church interior will also be available for free online, as will future events yet to be announced. Up to date information, donation and ticket purchase information can be found on the special campaign portion of the parish’s website:
https://www.stbernardakron.org/moving-forward-in-faith-campaign-events .

Regular progress updates will be given each weekend from October 24, 2020 until December 25, 2020 in the church bulletin, on www.stbernardakron.org and through the social media outlets of the parish. A final in-pew appeal will be made in December, 2020 and a celebration event will be held in late December, 2020 or early January, 2021, marking the end of the campaign. A refurbished exterior Cross ornament that sat on the top of the building before the restoration will gradually be unveiled within the church to mark the progress in the campaign, culminating with the ornament being completely unveiled and re-placed atop the church in December, 2020.

To see the progress of the campaign, have questions answered, recommend the campaign to others or purchase tickets to the live and online music performances, visit  stbernardakron.org. The parish’s Facebook page will also have updates and connections to the various stages of the campaign.

About St. Bernard Church

St. Bernard Roman Catholic Church was declared a historic monument in 1989 when it was placed on the National Register of Historical Places. Distinctively German-Romanesque with a Baroque influence, its architectural style is patterned after many of the great cathedrals in the Rhineland region of Europe.

St. Bernard was designed by its parishioner, William P. Ginther, an Akron architect who designed numerous churches across the country. In 1901, the cornerstone was laid, and construction began on the church to serve a growing German-speaking population in Akron. Stone costing $51,000 was used and was brought to the site in 125 train carloads. Having no outstanding debts, the church was consecrated for sacred worship to God in October 1905. The church embodies the Romanesque Revival style with its symmetrical massing, monochromatic stone and numerous round and semi-circular arches. The church’s twin bell towers, each with five string courses, are also typical elements of this architectural style. The influences of the Richardsonian Romanesque style are also evident by the recessed placement of the windows and the random courses of the rock-faced exterior walls. Distinctive interior details include a large white Italian marble altar and elaborate wall decorations featuring the disciples, apostles and seraphim typical of a Catholic church of this era.