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OSAGE | Despite the somber occasion, nearly 100 attendees of the Sacred Heart Church sang their praises to God earlier this month. 

The 8:30 a.m. Mass, celebrating an Aug. 15 Holy Day, was the final service in the 89-year-old structure.

Some lingered a few minutes after the service or gathered in the basement, where they reminisced about what the old structure meant to them.

Others shared their grief of knowing their familiar sanctuary and basement fellowship hall would soon be demolished to make way for a new $4 million accessible facility, that will house a sanctuary, offices, nave and fellowship hall.

Larry Hemann, who came to Osage 73 years ago, had his six children baptized at the church. 

"It feels terrible," he said. "It’s like tearing down my house."

Almost 90-year-old Marcella Voight, who was one of the youngest members of congregation when the church was built, said, “It feels like a loss. It’s been home.”

Erma Adams, 75, said she had special memories of the building. 

"I have been here since I was born," she said. "It's sad, but progress has to go on."

Annette Uker, a long-time member of the congregation, joined the Sacred Heart staff as pastoral minister five years ago. 

"Like everyone else, I have a lot of history here, but it’s a good thing for the future, as the new church will be handicap accessible and the gathering space will be more welcoming," she said. "I am more excited about the future than I am about the loss.”

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Members decided to remodel the current gym into a fellowship hall with a kitchen and restrooms. An accessible, one-story entrance will replace the former church, and a parking lot will be added east of the new structure. 

The church will worship temporarily at the Knights of Columbus Hall until work on the new fellowship hall can be completed, said Leo Chisholm, who is a member of the building committee. His parents helped build the church in 1928. 

The new sanctuary is scheduled to be completed in July or August 2018. 

Volunteers from the congregation are helping move pews into storage and packing other belongings needed in the temporary worship centers and new sanctuary. 

In addition to the pews, many items will be moved to the new building, including the furniture, altar, Stations of the Cross, organ and stained glass windows. 

During his final Sunday Mass in the building, the Rev. Ray Burkle told his congregation, “It’s like a loved one dying. Many have been baptized, been confirmed, took first Communion, been married and had loved ones' funerals here.

“There are a lot of memories here. There are some who are ready for a new church; for others, the closing of the church is too fast, and there are others of you who are ready for whatever happens.

“I know they will miss some things from the old building, but I don’t think they will miss the stairs, or the bathrooms in the basement, and there will be a greater space between the pews," Burkle said. 

Gene Evans, who ushered in the last service, said, “There is a sense of sadness for the old building going away and a great excitement for a church that will accommodate everyone. It will be more convenient for all our parishioners.”

Janice Schonrock, 77, provided her personal sentiments, “I was born, baptized and married here. This is home. I have been telling myself I know the church is coming down, but the church is more than a building — it’s a community, and a family.”

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Steven Thompson is a correspondent for the Mitchell County Press-News, another Lee Enterprises newspaper. 

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