Christ Our Light Catholic Parish is one step closer to building a permanent home to replace its north campus in Princeton and its south campus in Zimmerman.
The Sherburne County Board of Commissioners approved on April 4 a conditional use permit to construct and operate a church at 11604 293rd Ave. NW in Princeton. The Baldwin Township Board has also approved a conditional use permit.
“This is exciting news,” the Rev. Kevin Anderson told the Star News. “It is kind of rejuvenating.”
Anderson said work continues on the project as the congregation raises money and architects sharpen their pencils, but first the church must sell its existing churches or at least one of them.
The church signed a contract for deed to purchase the land in July 2017 with Al and Teeny Emmerich, and that can be closed on once contingency goals are met, a conditional use permit is in place and the parish has successfully raised the needed money for a substantial down payment. The land, 1 mile east of Highway 169 on County Road 9, is almost exactly equidistant from doorstep to doorstep from its new location in Zimmerman and Princeton.
There is no date for a groundbreaking.
“As I like to say, we’re going to trust in the Holy Spirit,” Anderson said.
In 2008, the parishes of St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Princeton and St. Pius X Catholic Church in Zimmerman were combined due to a shortage of priests in the diocese. Following a year of consideration, Bishop John Kinney announced one parish would be created to replace St. Edward’s and St. Pius X. Christ Our Light Catholic Parish was established on May 15, 2010. The congregation uses both churches.
Listening sessions were held in 2012 and 2014 to explore the option of creating a single church location, but the results were inconclusive. The parish council then started discussions about renovating and updating the two current buildings that became known as the north campus and south campus.
In December 2014 the Elk River Area School District, which has a combined high school and middle school across the street from the Zimmerman campus and frequently uses its parking lot, approached the pastors and church council regarding purchasing the south campus in Zimmerman.
In the spring of 2015 a third round of listening sessions was held, and a clear majority favored selling the Zimmerman property and planning a new, single-building site, with the hope of selling the Princeton campus, too.
In January 2016 a feasibility study for the entire parish was conducted by Hal Johnson and Associates. The results showed positive support for selling both campuses and moving forward with a plan to build a new church at a site between the Princeton and Zimmerman campuses.
Following those meeting in the spring of 2016, a facilities planning committee, land committee and fundraising committee were formed and congregational meetings were held to develop concept statements for the liturgical space of a new church.
The facilities group narrowed a list of 10 potential architects down to three before recommending Miller Dunwiddie.
Similarly, the land committee looked at 10 sites and narrowed the list to three before its members and the parish advisers board agreed that the Emmerich site with 107 acres on County Road 9 on 293rd Avenue in Baldwin Township was the preferred location.
“This area is in one of the fastest growing parts of the state,” Anderson said. “We see it as a center point.”
In addition to the good location, the Emmerichs were willing to include the property that their house sits on in the purchase as the future rectory.
A vote was taken in November 2016 by the pastoral council to buy the Emmerich property. It also accepted the recommendation to hire Miller Dunwiddie Architects to compile a master plan and help Christ Our Light articulate its vision of a new facility. These decisions were then approved by Bishop Don Kettler, Diocese of St Cloud.
Planning of the church started in January and continued through the summer. The contract for deed to purchase the land was signed in the summer of 2017.
Anderson will be putting his real estate agent hat back on. The school district decided not to pursue the church property, prior the hiring of Superintendent Dan Bittman.
“While we are always reviewing district needs related to space, there has been no further interest,” Bittman told the Star News.