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Helmut Schmidt, Published December 24 2011

Moving with the Holy Spirit

FARGO - Sometimes the Holy Spirit moves you. And sometimes, you have to move the Holy Spirit.

The latter is now under way, as Holy Spirit Elementary and the parish church offices move back to their refurbished and updated facilities at 1441 8th St. N., more than six months after heavy rains from July 19 storms led to extensive sanitary sewer backup and damage in the building.

Through the fall, the school and parish offices were housed at Cardinal Muench Seminary, 100 35th Ave. N. in Fargo.

The seminary had the classrooms, gym, lunch area and chapel needed for the Catholic school’s 164 pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students, Principal Jason Kotrba said.

The alternatives would have been renting classrooms at several schools or using a warehouse, he said.

“Cardinal Muench has been a blessing to us. … There’s a piece of it we love, the tranquility. We’ll miss it,” Kotrba said.

Still, the principal said, “we’re definitely looking forward to getting home.”

Work at Holy Spirit is 90 percent done and should be complete by the time school restarts Jan. 3, Kotrba said.

Monsignor Jeffrey Wald, who leads the parish, said the final tally for repairs, updates, seminary rental and moving expenses will be $700,000 to $800,000.

Given the extent of the sewer water damage, he’s counting blessings rather than dwelling on the cost.

“God has been good,” Wald said.

“We had great contractors. I’m just in awe of the people that worked here,” Wald said.

He also thanks Bishop Samuel Aquila for letting Holy Spirit use Cardinal Muench, delaying its sale but allowing the elementary school to maintain its identity.

The torrential midsummer rains were directed by an outmoded roof drain design into the sanitary sewer system, Kotrba said. When the sanitary main from the school to the city’s main sewer line collapsed, water backed up through toilets and urinals into the school, church and school offices. Some of it spilled into church common areas.

The foul water ruined the Sheetrock, carpet and wood it came into contact with.

When carpet was pulled up, some old tile came with it. That’s when it was discovered the tile was made with asbestos, Kotrba said.

Removing tile throughout the school and offices to abate the asbestos added a month and a half of work to the project, he said.

The roof drains have since been redirected and now drain to the city’s storm sewer system.

Floors and cabinetry have been replaced in much of the building. Ninety-six doors had to be replaced, Wald said.

The school and parish offices were also redesigned to be more efficient, security cameras were installed and the building was made Wi-Fi capable, Wald said.

Tours of the school and refurbished offices will be held 8:15 to 11 a.m. New Year’s Day, Wald said.

“We’re starting the new year by taking a look at the new facility,” he said.

On Jan. 5, Bishop Samuel Aquila will preside over an 8:30 a.m. Mass at Holy Spirit and then will tour the school and offices and bless the facility, Wald said.

“I’ll be glad to be back,” Wald added.

The seminary is still for sale. The asking price is $3.3 million, said Tanya Watterud, the Fargo Diocese’s director of communications.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583