Architect Steve Maher, of Ritter Maher Architects in Baton Rouge, recently provided Rotarians an update on the new St. John the Baptist Catholic Church under construction in Zachary.
Maher, a Baton Rouge Rotarian, and his business partner, Scott Ritter, joined the Rev. Jeff Bayhi on March 31 as the guests of Zachary Rotarian Scott Buzhardt, who is on the New Building Committee at the church, along with Billy Kline, Danette Castello, Mack Lea, Kevin Lemoine and Robbie Robinson.
Maher said the hope is that the new church will be completed by Christmas, but the reality is that construction will likely end in January because of about two months of rain delays. Ground broke on the new church in September.
“The foundation has been poured and steel framing has gone up, so things should move ahead quickly now,” Maher said.
In designing St. John’s, Ritter Maher studied the verticality of churches in New Orleans as well as Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Mercy in Baton Rouge before deciding upon a neogothic style that will have 491/2-foot ceilings versus the 30-foot ceiling St. John’s has now.
The $7.2 million church and its campus is on several parcels of land pieced together that will have frontage on Main Street and parking entrances from Lee Street and McHugh Drive.
Maher and team visited a decommissioned church in Syracuse, New York, where they salvaged a 28-foot altar featuring statues of St. Ambrose and St. Athanasius that date back to the 1800s, along with statues of St. Peter Julian Eymard and St. Peter Canisius.
“It’s an impressive piece of millwork that is nearly three stories, if you can imagine,” Maher said.
Organ pipes, a baptismal font, a statue of the Blessed Mother that was completed in 1788 and 9-foot paintings of the stations of the cross by German artist Oswald Volkel also were saved.
“Each painting spans about three church pews, and one was recently auctioned for about $10,000 at Sotheby’s,” Bayhi said. “St. John’s will have the only complete set in the world.”
A wooden truss system inside the new church will be accented by 12-foot-tall stained glass windows, each piece painstakingly reinsulated and preserved.
The church itself is a cruciform design that will feature a main nave extending from the entrance to the transepts (or cross section) in front of the sanctuary.
Measuring about 18,000 square feet, the new St. John’s will seat more than 800 people and feature a large narthex (entrance) for community gatherings before and after Mass, two cry rooms, a separate choir loft, a bride’s room, usher’s room, dedicated space for the liturgical ministry and a covered outdoor drop-off area. Also, two side altars, confessionals, a vesting room and sacristy will be included.
Additionally, a 40-seat adoration chapel complete with a glass ceiling will be lit at night and connect to the main church through a landscaped garden.
The number of families attending St. John’s has risen from 485 in 2004 to about 1,400 today.
To learn more about the future church or to donate to the Legacy of Faith capital campaign, visit sjb-ola.org/.