Church bulletins Port Huron Church seeks to destroy rectory Land is needed for additional parking

By Holly Setter

Time Herald (Port Huron)

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) -- St. Joseph Catholic Church in Port Huron wants to expand and make its facility more friendly for aging members of its congregation, but a big piece of its history stands in the way.

The church recently filed an application with the Port Huron Historic District Commission to demolish the St. Joseph rectory. The Rev. Brian Cokonougher said the church waited as long as it could before choosing to demolish the late 1800s home, which was built by the Sanborn family.

"We've been investigating our options for the rectory for two years," he said. "We even looked at selling the house for a dollar, but you would need to move the building. We have gone as long as we can."

Cokonougher is pastor of Holy Trinity Parish, which consists of St. Joseph, St. Stephen Catholic Church and Our Lady of Guadalupe Hispanic Mission.

He said the church needs to install barrier-free parking and expand to improve restroom facilities. Parking at the church is limited, and parishioners frequently have to walk across Seventh Street to get to the barrier-free ramp entrance.

The church also wants to improve the landscaping to provide a better backdrop for outdoor activities such as wedding photos, hospitality after Mass and special prayer services.

To do those things, St. Joseph needs space, and the rectory takes up valuable real estate.

The wrecking balls are not coming out right away. Cokonougher said during the Historic District Commission meeting, several people offered "good ideas" for alternative ways to meet the congregation's needs. The church will be weighing its options during the next 30 days.

"We got a lot of understanding about the situation we're in," he said. "People suggested ways that we could possibly work with adjacent properties or adjust our plan. I feel encouraged about the situation."

The exterior of the building is starting to show its age, but Cokonougher said the inside is in good shape. He said the right person with the right time and resources could certainly return it to its former glory.

He said he spoke extensively with Holy Trinity parishioners about what to do with the building.

"No one would be happy to see it go," Cokonougher said. "But we all understand that the house has needs that we cannot meet, and the church has needs that are important and need to be met."

For now, Cokonougher said he is holding on to hope that the building can be saved.

"Who knows what will happen?" he said. "The Catholic church believes in miracles, and it has always been our hope that someone will come along for this house."

Published: Tue, Jul 10, 2012