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Posted on Sun, Jun 20, 2010 : 1:06 p.m.

Saline's St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church building 31,160-square-foot expansion

By Brian Vernellis

Faced with a growing congregation, St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Saline is responding with a massive construction effort.

In mid-March, the parish began a $7 million project that will add a 31,160-square-foot addition onto the church, parish hall and offices.


Tim Ervans with B&B Construction of Romulus works on a section of the sidewalk outside St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church.

Brian Vernellis |

“We’re basically doubling in size,” said parish project manager Tom Arehart of the effort. 

As dioceses across the nation consolidate parishes to deal with congregations that are declining in numbers, St. Andrew’s expansion is an indication that membership thrives in some areas.

“It’s an excellent sign that the church is growing and flourishing,” Diocese of Lansing spokesman Michael Diebold said. “It’s a testament to the community of Saline.”

In September 2008, the Diocese of Lansing announced parish closures due to dwindling membership. The diocese closed four parishes in Genesee County due to declining membership and finances.

“We’re seeing that demographic shift like a lot of organizations,” Diebold said. “People are moving out of urban areas or flat out leaving the state.

“I think if you look at county growth, you’ll see it’s trending out to bedroom communities - communities where people live in one area and work in another.”

Saline's expansion will cost about $5.5 million, and other expenditures such as engineering and management fees will add another $1.5 million to the project.

The additional space will be used for offices, classrooms, multifunctional usage, continuing education and social outreach programs.

Arehart estimated the construction’s three phases will be finished by late fall/early winter of 2011.

“We’ve enjoyed consistent growth through the 1990s and the first part of 2000s,” Arehart said. “We’ve been growing at 10-15 families a month through the last several years.”

The 2010 Diocese of Lansing directory lists St. Andrew with 1,891 registered families.

St. Andrew began as a mission parish in Saline in 1953, purchasing five acres off Monroe Street.

In 1968, St. Andrew gained full parish status and moved to its present location on Austin Drive. 

The project is in the early stages of phase one, which is centered on site work and improving utilities. The second phase focuses on the foundation and is targeted to begin before the end of June.

“We hope to have the primary building up and enclosed before winter,” Arehart said.

Brian Vernellis is a reporter for Reach him at or 734-623-4617.


Gary Perrydore

Fri, Jul 9, 2010 : 10:29 a.m.

Quite an interesting stream of comments - I am lead to add my own as a member of the parish. When I was initially made aware of this project and the process was initiated to fund it, I was concerned about the scope of the project, the cost and the timing. I am not in favor of larger parking lots, removal of trees all for the sake of merely building a larger building. However, as a member of St. Andrew I recognize first hand the challenges we face when it comes to meeting space. Some Masses exceed capacity - both in the sanctuary and the parking lot. Additionally, quite often there are competing demands for class room or office space. We literally are challenged with the current facilities to meet the physical space needs of the parish community. In order to do so, more space needs to be constructed and a larger parking lot needs to be included. Unfortunately, trees and wildlife have been affected by this construction - as were many trees and wildlife affected by the construction of homes in the surrounding residential community. But those homes are populated by families which is beautiful and the St. Andrew community is a larger home populated by hundreds of families (and growing)that are seeking to grow in their faith - and it requires more space. As some families grow in size they may seek a larger house to purchase or they may build an addition. The St. Andrew community is building an addition - moving is not an option. As a person who faced a time of unemployment due to a lay off, I appreciate the additional benefit of this project providing employment to some who may not have it otherwise. Yes, we need to answer the teaching of Jesus to clothe and feed the poor, to visit the sick, to visit those in prison, etc. And the community of St. Andrew actively participates in these ministries. Each year the diocese asks each parish to encourage their members to dig deep to support programs that support various ministries and the community of St. Andrew has always responded with tremendous generosity. This is in addition to a number of other appeals that we are asked to participate with. It is up to each individual through prayerful discernment to determine what Jesus may be asking them to do to promote his kingdom on earth. That may come in various ways including supporting the expansion at St. Andrew. With this expansion, hopefully even more will be challenged to dig deep into thier pockets to address the needs of our world. An another note, much criticism has been included in this thread regarding the Catholic Church and it's leadership. The diocese of Lansing is blessed to have a tremendous leader and shepherd in Bishop Earl Boyea. To my knowledge he has never been implicated in any kind of abuse and is on the front lines to ensure the chidren within the diocese of Lansing are loved and protected (this includes those children waiting to be born). The pastor of St. Andrew as well ensures that all those adults involved in youth ministry are trained and educated to do so properly. The parents and youth of our community are provided an opportunity to learn more about how to protect themselves and their children. Jesus Christ established His church on earth and to be sure, it is run by humans along with thier faults. If we relied on perfection in the church, it would never have survived beyond the original band of 12 who at times didn't have a clue and turned their back on Him. Lastly, the project at St. Andrew is our new Faith Formation Center - a place that will acccomodate a growing community. My prayer is that it become exactly that, a faith formation center focused on teaching the Catholic faith to young and old alike. Focused on forming us in the truths of Jesus, including the sanctity of marriage and it's purpose, that abortion kills a baby that God has allowed to be created, to dispel misunderstandings about what Catholics believe and why, to build up a community of believers that take their faith into the world in which we live and transform it. Unfortunately, this coming to be may be exactly why some are opposed to the construction in the first place. The peace of Christ be with you all.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 9:44 a.m.

another example of religious self aggrandizement. I'm sure God was really happy to see the trees destroyed in the process too. Although I'm sure he saw that coming, being omnipotent and all.


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 7:15 p.m.

"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit" Thomas Paine One of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 12:10 p.m.

Ed- Again, trying to stay on point: 1. I do wish you would support your argument with more than opinion. Is it ever moral for the church to have any material posessions or to ever grow in terms of the goods of this world? If not, there would never have been a church in the first place. Remember, Jesus never condemned the existence of the great temple in Jerusalem. He condemned the defiling of it through commerce that took place within it. He also prophesied that it would be destroyed, but not because of its excessive wealth. 2. I agree wholeheartedly that corruption through attachment to material things has been and will always be a temptation. But please do not restrict 'Jesus message to us' to one aspect of his teaching. Jesus message was also to preach the gospel to all the world, to make disciples of all, and that necessarily involves the use of the world's goods. 3. Your use of the phrase 'my Catholic Church' does trouble me, but it's no mystery why. Chirst founded one church, and it does not belong to me or to you or to any individual or group. It is His Church, and our Church, the body of all believers. Enjoy the summer.


Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 11:06 p.m.

One need only to look at the Vatican today and the church of the past to see how much it has bathed itself in gold and silver, often at the expense of the poor. If the members of St. Andrew feel this is the best use of their money, then let them be. If not, they should walk away and find another church.

Jimmy Olsen

Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 4:17 p.m.

@Cash I don't disagree that the Church has lost its way sometimes, but I guess I take it farther and will suggest that the whole world is that way. My point about sporting events leads to "honoring false gods", which sports figures are to many. The church has not changed - the large cathedrals were built when surely that money could have been better spent on other things. The arts holdings of the Church could surely finance many things. But the general giving, if you follow tithing, is 10% or a days wage. Over and beyond that is at discretion of the giver. Even though no trees were harmed, I didn't see such public outcry when the First Methodist church began their expansion of classrooms and "multi-purpose" room. I would guess they spent less (maybe 1.5 million on both projects).


Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 2:49 p.m.

It's not that trees are more important than people or whatever else you want to take out of context, but when I'm driving home from work and see deer wandering around the residential neighborhood off of Mills road, which is close to the church, it tends to give me pause.


Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 1:05 p.m.

Jimmy, I disagree with your comparison. When people go to a sporting event they are not saying that they are "honoring God." They may not even believe in God. When a church is built it is done to worship God. The entire premise of the Catholic Church is that it is indeed founded by Jesus Christ. Sporting events, government,etc blah blah, are not founded on a premise that they are founded by Christ and follow his teachings. It is of course the choice of some parishioners to spend on a church, as it is their right. And it is my right to say that the Church is sometimes out of touch with the suffering in this world and in some instances, lost it's way.

Jimmy Olsen

Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 12:50 p.m.

@Cash, It certainly is valid. The very people (name the religion) who attend any sporting event, concert, etc. have choosen to be entertained instead of sending their money to the poor or whatever else has been suggested by other posters here. They are okay with that. They probably still send money to the charities. My point is that people, religions, governments, or whatever have choices and those choices don't always make sense to everyone, but to those making them. The priorities of the whole world are out of whack, and if the faithful of St. Andrew choose to spend their money on expanded classrooms and worship space (and yes, more parking to accommodate the faithful) to promote their religion - it is their choice. Like it or not.


Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 12:30 p.m.

I think some of you are missing the point. The trees were removed to allow the church to put in a new "upper level" parking area. The "green" space where the trees once lived is now going to be a huge paved parking lot! It's not to provide for church expansion. It's to provide for church PARKING. Come on people!


Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 12:18 p.m.

For all of those griping that this money should have been spent to help our unemployed etc.... who do you think will be working on this project, robots? Last time I checked construction projects provide jobs for people! What, did you think they were burning this money or something? As for the concern over trees and the animals that lived in them... these weren't the last trees in Washtenaw County, far from it. No need to ensure there are more trees than people here. I know, that's blasphemy in this county, but all of this "trees before people" nonsense in this county is one of the reasons I'm looking to get out of here. More room for more programs means a stronger church better able to appeal to the diverse needs of the parishioners the way I look at it.


Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 12:12 p.m.

Jimmy, Comparing how a government, founded by a bunch of guys who wrote their own rules, and a church that claims to be founded by Jesus Christ..spend their money, isn't valid. Speaking up about perceived wrongs is important. Even though doing that within the church can get you excommunicated, you can do it at and still get to heaven. Give Clark my regards.

Jimmy Olsen

Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 11:53 a.m.

What would Jesus do? Would he spend 7 million a year to pay one professional athletes his/her salary? Would he pay 7 million a year to fly the US President around the country? Would he spend 7 million a year to study why red-eyed fleas are attracted to blue-eyed ants? Lets face it - the moral ground of this country, indeed the world (witness the dollars spent on the soccer world cup) leaves very little to be desired. Read any spending bill at any level of government to see wasted dollars for pet projects. The fact that the members of St. Andrew who choose to contribute to this project did so freely and willingly. I'm sure many members choose not to contribute, just like the neighbors choose not to read the posted plans and attend the planning commission meetings where they could have voiced their concerns about the plans. The world is what you make of it - look in the mirror and start the change.


Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 11:51 a.m.

I am not a member of this or any church but do live in the neighborhood effected by the expansion. This church is and will probably continue to be a good neighbor. A forest was not torn down for the expansion, there was ample opportunity to voice concerns via public forums before the approvals were ever granted, and - yes - constructions companies will make money off the project. In the end, not that much harm will have been done. A net gain for the entire community in my opinion.


Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 10:53 a.m.

tracyann, I understand exactly how you feel and I'm sorry. It's hurtful when so many people are suffering to see others seemingly oblivious to the pain. I went through something similar at another parish....where even a professional fund raiser was hired. I would say that those calling me were polite and kind though and asked me to pray for the project, which I couldn't do. I pray for the poor, political prisoners, anyone suffering etc. but don't add a building fund raising campaign to my list. As a Catholic, am I my brother's keeper or not? If so, can I spend $7 million on a fancy building, or do I spend it on feeding the hungry, building orphanages, helping reforest Haiti before 1000s more humans are washed away in a hurricane, etc? In short, what would Jesus do?


Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 10:52 a.m.

As a parishioner of St. Andrews in Saline, I find it upsetting to construct this addition on the property site. I question the committees and the leadership of the parish to build a garden/columbarium and additional music/meeting rooms. Fancy mailings, the threat of home visits by the fundraising members along with a list of individuals who made their donations as a supplement to the weekly church bullitin were intimidating. The money spent on this project should be invested in our young, by aquiring one of the closed Saline City school buildings for the use as a catholic school to educate our children about the catholic faith, which is very fragile at this time. Get with it, we need to lead by example of faith and not build another monumental temple.


Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 9:20 a.m.

My family and I are members of St. Andrew and my children were very upset when they started removing the trees. They said the church was ruining the environment and destroying the homes of all the animals living in the woods. Wow! What insight children have that sometimes adults don't. Not to mention, the project is being funded by the parishioners who were urged to donate thousands of dollars (per family) and when we didn't turn in our donation forms right away they started calling our house to find out how much we were willing to donate. Didn't care for that much seeing as how we were trying to cut back on expenses because of the economy and we felt pressured. Also, just this Sunday, there was a guest priest who attended Mass to ask for donations to build houses for the poor in Sri Lanka, his birth country. He asked for donations of $7,000 or whatever one could afford! What ever happened to volunteering one's time? Not everyone living in Saline has fat pockets.


Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 8:20 a.m.

Ed - With respect to this article, could you please tell us who the "corrupt leaders" are who decided that a growing parish needed more physical space? And "less connected to the needs of it's parishoners"? It is the parishoners who decided for the expansion precisely to better meet their needs - education of children,the needs of those who benefit from outreach programs, etc. Not sure what "my catholic church" means, but there's only one, and St. Andrew Saline is part of it. (I wonder what parish Sinnead O'Connor belongs to these days?)


Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 6:24 a.m.

Heidi, I'm sure the garden/columbarium in the lower section of the property will be beautiful, however, its beauty is only going to be enjoyed by the members of St. hardly comes close to making up for the huge loss of trees and forestry where wildlife held nests and built families, and provided much needed privacy and serenity for the people who live in the neighboring area. The parking lot extension to higher ground was absolutely unnecessary and could have been avoided by building out instead of up. Todd Wilson, it sounds like you live in the neighborhood near St. Andrews, which makes you a member of the Saline community. You should have attended a few, if not all of the Planning Commission meetings to voice your opinion.


Mon, Jun 21, 2010 : 6:15 a.m.

Heidi, Yes they do willingly take my check as they do many who generously support missions. Sadly my donations can't add up to $7 million. I remain firm in my belief that the church is misguided in funding lavish surroundings at such a critical time for so many homeless, jobless, hungry people around this country and the planet. That's my opinion.

Heidi Hess Saxton

Sun, Jun 20, 2010 : 7:42 p.m.

As active members of St. Andrew, my husband and I fully support this expansion program, and can testify to the need of the extra space for the various parish programs. The youth program -- St. Andrew has an extremely active middle school and high school program, which has produced many vocations in the past few years -- is especially in need of additional space. The loss of trees is regrettable... the church is planning a garden/columbarium in the lower section of the property. It should be lovely when it's done. The closing of some local parishes does not negate the need for this expansion. Larger parishes like St. Andrew and St. Francis play an important role in the well-being of the entire diocese. Each year the bishop calls upon the larger parishes to shoulder a larger share of the financial burden for its diocesan programs, so the smaller parishes can have the resources they need. There are always going to be larger and smaller parishes; balancing the needs of all the parishes in a diocese is the responsibility of the bishop, who must sometimes make difficult administrative choices. That's his job -- it's OUR job to support him with our time, tithes, and prayers. The families of St. Andrew have underwritten the cost of this expansion because we believe it is necessary -- and because charity begins at home. Supporting missions overseas is important, but so is supporting our own parish. Why we should have to justify this support to those outside the community is beyond me. In the meantime, Cash, I'm sure there are any number of mission efforts in South America that would be happy to take YOUR check!


Sun, Jun 20, 2010 : 7:03 p.m.

You neglected to mention that Lansing also closed Transfiguration Parish in Ypsilanti Township, but they called it a "merger" with St Johns, Ypsilanti. In reality, Transfiguration was closed. $7 million dollars would feed a lot of poor people in South America. What would St Andrew, one of the Twelve, say to do with that money? As a Catholic, I wish our Church would concentrate less on excesses of wealth and property and more on what Jesus sent us to do. He never mentioned building big fancy churches to get to heaven. "Whatsoever you do for the least of our brethren, you do it for Me".


Sun, Jun 20, 2010 : 4:40 p.m.

So thats why they decided to tear down the ENTIRE forest behind the houses on saline river drive. This is going to be a fun year of construction noise for all us residence on the street.