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Church starts campaign to replace roof

The Rev. Brian E. Buettner jumped at his first pastoral assignment at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church this summer, but when the celebration died down, the other shoe quickly dropped.

 During the same conversation he was told he'd be leading a capital campaign for a badly weathered roof.

"I was told a few things," Buettner, 34, said, chuckling. "It's a great parish with a strong community of faith, there is a wonderful school there, I'd have a terrific secretary  and then that the roof needed to be replaced."

Buettner, admittedly knowing "nothing about roofing" and "nothing about raising money," accepted the challenge and then did what he always does: prayed about it.

 "This is a new experience, but it's been exciting," he said. "It's wonderful to see the number of people that are so fiercely proud of their parish, who want this to be a place of hope and a place of love and safety for their children, their families and their neighbors."

 "Covered in Mercy" campaign

 The "Covered in Mercy" emergency roof campaign kicked off right before Christmas with a goal of raising $250,000 to cover Blessed Sacrament in DaVinci single-width slate shingles. Janco Construction won the project bid and work began Jan. 2.

 "In the last two or three years, we've started having water leak into the church," Buettner said, noting the worst leakage is a "spray" that can be seen spewing near the bell tower during heavy storms.

 Drone footage revealed that many places on the roof had previously been patched, Buettner explained, but patches are no match for the relentless winds, rains and hailstones of Southwest Oklahoma. The new roof will include layers of premium membrane foundation as well, designed to seal the objects nailed into it  a base that was completed during the first week of the project.

 "God has blessed us in many ways, including our current roof, which was built by our own parishioners and has lasted over 70 years," the pastor wrote to his congregation in campaign pamphlets. "However, it is now up to us to build a new roof that will ensure that our mission will continue for many decades to come."

 To date, Lawtonians have raised just over $60,000 for the project; additional funding needed for an immediate start was borrowed from the Blessed Sacrament Parish Improvement Fund. Buettner predicts it will take more than a year to reach the $250,000 mark, although roof work will be completed by mid-February.

 "We have the money to just pay for the project, but the problem is we'd have nothing left if we did that, so if something happened to the church we'd be in trouble," he said. "That's why our capital campaign is so important. We have a large campus here with the parish and the school (St. Mary's Catholic School), so we don't want to deplete that fund."

 In addition to water seeping into the sanctuary, flooding has become an issue in the basement as well. Down spout blockages and piping issues are believed to have caused much of the problem at the lower level, Buettner said, but the roof must be repaired before surveying any further structural issues.

 Rich history

 Blessed Sacrament is as much a place of worship as it is an integral part of Lawton's history.

 The church has served as a concert hall for the community and educational venue for students since 1903. Its history begins before Oklahoma achieved statehood; it once stood as the tallest building in Lawton.

 "This was the original Catholic church in Lawton," Buettner said, before explaining the first structure at Southwest 7th Street and Gore Boulevard was rumored to have been burned down by the KKK in the '20s. "It was (re)built by people  Christians from all over Lawton  coming together and standing up against hate. I think today, (the construction) is more about standing up, hopefully, for love."

The Lawton Constitution

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