St. Isidore’s Catholic Student Center renovation to be completed January 2023

Interior of St. Isidore's. (Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

Father Gale Hammerschmidt, chaplain at St. Isidore’s said the new church will be open to the public soon after three years of construction. 

“It should be completed around January. The Bishop of the Diocese of Salina will come to Manhattan and do a dedication mass,” Hammerschmidt said. “We will be able to start having services there immediately after that.” 

Hammerschmidt said St. Isidore’s is the most important church for the future of the Catholic faith in Kansas. 

“We have so many kids who come through here and then go back to their own communities,” Hammerschmidt said. “We are trying to form students into people who become faithful members of parishes throughout the state and beyond.” 

Hammerschmidt said the project was broken down into three phases. 

“Phase one was the building of a new kitchen with a classroom above. Phase two was a full remodel of the student center which took about a year,” Hammerschmidt said. “The church itself is phase three, the old church was torn down and new one is being completely rebuilt.”

The new building will feature paintings, new stained glass, a new altar, new tabernacle, new lectern and an immense amount of added space, Hammerschmidt said. 

“We will have approximately twice the seating capacity we had in the old church. For nearly two decades we did not have enough seating,” Hammerschmidt said. “We will have a liturgical painting that is being done by experts from New York City; this studio also did interior work at the United States Capitol and Kansas Capitol, an outdoor courtyard. We will reuse the stained glass windows from the previous church and add an additional eight new windows. A brand new altar is being made from four pieces of marble from Italy.”

Hammerschmidt said out of all the new amenities the renovation will provide, he is eager for a bigger space to worship. 

“Even though everything else will be incredibly beautiful, no matter how beautiful it is, if we can not get everyone who wants to be in, then we are missing out on our mission,” Hammerschmidt said. 

Sienna Wingerson, senior in marketing and president of St. Isidore’s student leadership team, said space has been their biggest issue throughout the construction. 

“It has been very hard to adjust and adapt especially during welcome week because we had hundreds of students wanting to come to weekend and weekday masses,” Wingerson said. “We host masses in what we call our ‘Aquafina chapel’ because it has a huge water bottle machine in it. It is actually Newman hall. Watching that room be completely full is frustrating at times but also exciting because so many students want to be involved in their Catholic faith.”

Hammerschmidt said seeing Newman hall overflow with students creates excitement for the finished product. 

“Newman hall seats around two hundred people … there have been instances when that has not been big enough and people have to stand and fill the lobby,” Hammerschmidt said. “It makes me excited and ready to have the new church so we can really start to get after it.” 

Hammerschmidt said students are anxious to see the new church. 

“Not a day goes by without somebody begging me to give them a tour of the construction,” Hammerschmidt said. 

Wingerson said tours are available for students to view the construction and get a sneak peak at the upgrades. 

“They offer tours of the construction on Friday afternoons, so getting students in the building is so exciting to see the progress being made,” Wingerson said. “You have to come in to sign a waiver, wear long pants, closed-toed shoes and you have to wear a hard hat while you are in there.”

Wingerson said to take a tour, the required waiver can be found at the construction door inside St. Isidore’s. 

“It is definitely a very exciting tour because there are paintings that are done, stained glass windows are up and the altar is being installed soon,” Wingerson said. 

Wingerson said, even with the construction, St. Isidore’s still hosts events.

“We have lots of events that are awesome, and everyone is welcome,” Wingerson said. “We do swing dancing every Tuesday after mass, which is a big hit.” 

Mackenzie Anderson, sophomore in life sciences, said the construction has not been an issue for her involvement at St. Isidore’s this year.

“The construction does not bother me. It is worth the wait to get to watch the beautiful new church being built,” Anderson said. “I love being involved at St. Izzy’s. I have met a lot of great people, made connections and there are always people around to talk to.”

Hammerschmidt said every student should know about the peace and happiness St. Isidore’s provides. 

“We believe we will have the quietest, most peaceful spot in all of Manhattan to sit, to pray, to ask the most important questions,” Hammerschmidt said. “And we will be open to every student to just come and sit, to look up, to look around and to ponder their existence and the meaning of life. We want people to know if they ever need silence, they can find it at St. Isidore’s.”