Thursday, December 31, 2009

Additional Donation

Thanks to our donor in Wyoming who as contributed another $100 to our project. We appreciate your continued support.

Press Release

I just sent the following to both TV stations in Great Falls (KRTV & KFBB), the Great Falls Tribune, The River Press in Fort Benton, and our diocesan newspaper, the Harvest.

Let's see if we get a response.

Historic Church Seeking Renewal

Fort Benton, “the Birthplace of Montana”, is known for its history. Not only is the story of Fort Benton a story of fur trading, gambling, shootings and a missing governor, it is a story of faith. From the earliest days, religion has played a part in the development of Fort Benton. It is reported that on September 27, 1846, Fathers Pierre de Smet, SJ, and Nicholas Point, SJ, celebrated Masses. These were reputedly the first religious services held in this region.

In 1878-79, the first church in Fort Benton, the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, was built. This structure served the Catholic community until it was destroyed by fire on December 31, 1905. By 1907, a new stone church was erected. This church was used until 1967 when it was deemed to be too small to serve the local community and the current church used by the community was built.

In its 102 year history, the old Immaculate Conception Church has stood strong as a testament to the faith of the people of Fort Benton. Unfortunately, the old church has received little upkeep over the last 40 years and this piece of history in Fort Benton is being threatened.

This has been the impetus for a group from Fort Benton, Catholic and non-Catholic, to attempt to restore the old church to her original beauty. This is not an effort to renovate the church to meet the current liturgical practices, but to maintain the design to meet the liturgical practices that were in place when the church was first built.

Having completed a structural engineering evaluation, it was determined that the old church is still structurally sound, but will not remain so if immediate action is not taken to replace the roof and much of the grout making up the stone walls. The inside is in need of much plaster repair as the leaking roof has led to water damage in some areas.

Father Leo McDowell, pastor of Immaculate Conception in Fort Benton, has commented, “We are excited about what these efforts might bring about. The historical significance of this old church is a reminder of the glory given to God through the beauty of its art and architecture. It would be a shame to have this all lost when it could be saved.”

For more information about the restoration efforts you can check out their web page

Father McDowell added, “It would be nice to use the old church once again for small weddings, funerals and Mass. It would be a shame to lose this part of Fort Benton history.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Latest Updates on Fundraising

We received word yesterday from the Lippard-Clawiter Foundation. They have decided not to fund our request for this year.

On a positive note, this past week we did receive a local contribution of $300 and another $100 internet contribution. :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pay Pal Donation Button

I thought I would point out that we have a PayPal donation button here on the blog. Look to the right :). I am also including the button in this blog post.

Thanks to all of you who are supporting our efforts through prayer.

Fr. Leo

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First online donation

Today we received our first online donation as we continue our efforts to raise money for our restoration effort. Thanks, Martha in Wyoming :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lippard-Clawiter Foundation Grant

As we look at the various ways we can restore our old church and look for funding we realize that grants will play a major role in our success. This fall, as the grant application deadline was approaching we submitted an application for a grant from the Lippard-Clawiter Foundation. The Lippard-Clawiter Foundation offers grants for worthy projects around Chouteau county. The Foundation has funded restoration of many of the buildings at the Chouteau County Fairgrounds, support for various emergency services throughout the county and assistance with projects to support community development. We look forward to hearing from the grant committee later this year.

Donor Makes Major Gift

As talk started to circulate about the possible replacement of the roof of the Old Immaculate Conception Catholic Church a generous donor came forward and offered to put up some seed money to be used for a matching grant, or to start the pot for those wishing to donate to the cause. While I do not have permission at this point to name the donor, I will say that the $10,000 donation will have a big impact as we move forward with our project. Thanks for your generosity.

Restoration Efforts Begin

This is the first blog post as we start chronicling the efforts to restore the old Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Benton to its former glory. Last week we received permission from the Diocesan Finance Council to proceed with our fund-raising efforts and grant seeking so that we can try to save this piece of historic Fort Benton, Montana. Be sure to stop by here frequently to keep up to date on the latest happenings.