St. Patrick Church in Milford undergoing major renovations

MILFORD – When the Rev. Dennis Audet arrived at his new parish almost two years ago, he quickly learned the century-old St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church had serious building problems, including crumbling asbestos floor tiles.

“The church was really in need of repair,” Audet said.

The parish numbers about 2,100 households. People were noticing the problems, but they were also enthusiastic about refurbishing the building, he said.

A Shrewsbury, Massachusetts firm that specializes in old church renovations was chosen along with Chapman Building and Design to oversee the project, which grew to include painting of the entire interior, including the nave, the area in which people sit during services, and the sanctuary, where the services take place.

All the floor tile, including the floor of the choir loft, is being replaced with tile. There is new oak flooring on the sanctuary floor, and tile and carpeting on the floor of the nave. On a recent morning, workers were on their hands and knees installing tile.

The walls, which had been “an awful shade of tan,” Audet said, are now a handsome green. Lighting has been replaced with energy-saving LED fixtures.

All the pews had to be removed and stored – “a once in a lifetime experience,” said the pastor, and that will allow them to be replaced with more space between them. “One hundred years ago, people were smaller,” he said.

Handicap access has been improved, and there will be an entire aisle wide enough for wheelchairs to maneuver.

Needless to say, these are very expensive renovations, but the church is fortunate to be able to fund it with parish savings, plus gifts from parishioners, Audet said, though savings are now depleted.

As often happens during renovations, an unexpected problem occurred. The main Gothic arch of the ceiling had to be replaced, a $45,000 job, bringing the entire cost to $431,000.

Since Memorial Day, all services, including Masses, funerals and baptisms, have taken place in the parish hall.

The first worship service back in the church is planned for Sept. 15-16. Father Dennis, as he’s called, is pleased the refurbished church will be ready in time for the church’s 125th anniversary in 2020.

John Turner, a professional engineer who is on the church’s finance council, credits Dennis for not skimping on the project.

“We were all looking at the floor for too many years and watching as the tiles were lifting,” and they knew it would be expensive, he said. Then, the contractor told them it would be crazy to do the floor and not paint the church, and a five-figure project exploded into six figures.

Dennis “really believed in doing the right thing and doing it completely,” Turner said.

Longtime parishioner Celeste Philbrick Barr, who recently celebrated a grandchild’s baptism in the parish hall, emailed to say that “donations for the restoration are welcome … It will be exciting to see the completed interior in early September.”

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.