February 11, 2018

Friends, it’s time to talk about the elephant in the Cloister: our iconic Bell Tower.

After Mass last Saturday night, a friend asked me if the Tower really is “that bad.”  As he pointed out, it’s hard to tell from the ground.  Fair point. 

For the casual observer, the Bell Tower looks a little dirty, but  essentially the same as it has for the last 60 plus years.  The only tip-off to the troubles is the temporary fencing that has been surrounding it for nearly a year.

But the truth is the Tower is in desperate need of repair.  When the piece fell off the north side in April, we secured the area and    ordered a visual inspection via a drone camera.  I just reread the engineers’ report and frankly, it’s scary.  Here’s what they found:  

·      Cracked and displaced stone units at the northeast, southeast    
       and southwest corners.  (Clearly it’s only a matter of time with
       the northwest corner.)

·      Vertical cracks at the midspan of several limestone pieces. 

·      A vertical crack that the runs most of the east elevation.

·      Spalls that pose potential falling hazards on the north and
       south elevations.

But in reality, we only know what’s happening on the exterior surface.  To really understand the full scope of the problem, we need to remove the stones and check on the internal steel frame. But that’s going to be complicated.

Most of the obvious trouble is concentrated in the ring around the 130-foot mark, just below the belfry. That’s 12 stories up, so the only way to access it for a complete   inspection is via scaffolding.

It is likely that this week we’ll give our contractor the go-ahead on the   scaffolding.  It’ll take nearly 3 weeks to put up, at a cost of more than $135,000. Once the scaffolding is in place, the engineers will do a full inspection, and they will come up with a plan for repair and  restoration.  They plan to give us Good/Better/Best options. 

There is no doubt this all boils down to money.  The funds we have available will be factored into what we do.  Do we fix it top to bottom?   Do we concentrate on the big hazards and leave the rest for the next group of parishioners?  Or some compromise in between?

We didn’t want to have to ask for money yet again.  (Or as you are likely thinking YET AGAIN!) Since 2014, Cathedral of St. Raymond parishioners have contributed $1.2 million to the initial Centennial Capital Campaign to improve our campus.  That’s an incredible number for a parish our size.  (The professional fundraiser estimated we’d raise $800,000.)

Our Phase II goal is to have $600,000 to put toward Tower repairs.  The Diocese will match that.  As of February 1, we have gifts and pledges totaling $270,000.

If you haven’t yet made a contribution to Phase II of the Centennial Capital Campaign, you’ll be receiving another outreach in the next week or two.  Please take some time to review the information and consider a gift or a pledge. 

In tracking our gifts to date, we’ve found that of those folks who made a gift to Phase I, their gift to Phase II is about half of their  original gift.  The average gift for Phase II is running right around $1,400. 

For reference, a gift of $1,000 given monthly over three years works out to $27 per month.  It’s $54 per month for a $2,000 gift.   A $3,000 gift paid over 36 months works out to $83 per month.

I share all of these numbers for both transparency and to make a point: We need gifts big and small to succeed with this.  You might wonder “will my gift make a difference?” Simple answer: YES

We are in a predicament.  In home owner terms, it’s as though we spent all our money renovating the kitchen, but now the furnace is out.   What choice is there?  This goes past the concept of a want or need to the level of necessity.

Please know your gift or pledge of any size is most needed and most appreciated.

Eileen Hooks Gutierrez
Director of Development and Projects Liaison
straysdevelopment@yahoo.com, 815-722-6653, extension 242

P.S.  The easiest way to support the renovation of the Tower is to go to straymond.net and click on the green online giving button.  That will take you through the process of giving a one-time gift or making a pledge.

P.P.S.  Or, if you prefer, grab an envelope at the Cathedral doors.



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