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Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me — Part XIV — LaBella is not so “bella”

October 16th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Although this post is Part XIV of the Zeal Series, it was delayed in posting in order to collect additional information.  There is still more to find, but it seems time to share what is available.  As the headline says:  “LaBella is not so bella.”  The word ‘bella’ is supposed to mean beautiful.  But that was apparently not the experience of the folks at St. Januarius in Naples, NY or in the dynamics of their Sanctuary Renovation project with LaBella as architects.

Check out:  www.LaBellaPC.com which lists under “markets served”  its “religious projects” in the following order:  Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Church of Christ the King,  Sacred Heart Cathedral, St. Anne Church and Parish Center, St. Catherines [sic] Church, St. Matthew Church, St. Titus Church, St. Louis Church.  We can’t help but notice that St. Januarius in Naples didn’t make their list.  Are they ashamed of that work?  It seems plausible that they wouldn’t want to be too closely associated with such a result: 

LaBella Renovations from OLOL Website

One can easily observe a certain sterility and Protestant scent to much of LaBella’s “Religious” work, but that isn’t the only disconcerting aspect of their work. 

Obviously, the Diocese of Rochester is one of LaBella’s valued clients, so much so that there was no visibility to any fair bidding process for the work at St. Jan’s, and one has to wonder if there was any arms-length bidding at any other DoR sites?  There also seemed to have been no accountability to parishioners for the work commissioned by DoR, no sincere attempt to meet with parishioners to determine their real needs, to hear their comments, to respond.  It seemed to some to be just a blind execution of Fr. Robert Ring’s personal agenda, and at what a horrible cost!

I conducted a newsletter survey of St. Jan’s parishioners and am also aware of a similar and simple survey conducted, not by me, but by a group of St. Jan’s parishioners.  All results confirmed that about 3/4 of the parishioners opposed the project.   I wrote the following to LaBella’s President,  and never received any reply:

PO Box 23973

Rochester, NY 14692

January 19, 2011

Robert A. Healy, AIA, President

LaBella Associates, PC

300 State Street

Rochester, NY 14614

Dear Mr. Healy,

Please permit me to introduce myself.  I am the Editor of the Newsletter It Really Matters, which is written on behalf of many of the parishioners of three of the six parishes in Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community.  While I would expect that you have received prior copies of our Newsletter through Father Robert Ring, pastor, regarding the long-standing opposition of approximately three-quarters of St. Januarius parishioners to most of the renovations your firm proposes for St. Januarius, I realize that may not be the case.  Information flow to parishioners has been significantly restricted, perhaps to you too.  Hence, in a spirit of openness and fair communication, I am writing to you.

On your website, you specifically mention as an attribute of your company: “Honesty and Integrity in all Transactions.”  That is a noble commitment; however, regarding the St. Januarius Project, we believe that has not been the experience of the majority of the parishioners.  And that may not be La Bella’s fault.  For example, it may not have even come to your attention that Fr. Ring forbade parishioners from discussing the project at Care of the Community meetings to give input prior to decision making, or that an excellent survey was completed by a committee of parishioners (with external review) which identified serious deficiencies in and resistance to the project, all of which has been ignored.  While you may not have been told of the numerous complaints or dissent, nevertheless it is obvious to many parishioners that no visible effort has been made to sincerely seek and respond to their input, or to creatively and compassionately resolve issues causing deep division in the parish.

To better assist your understanding of these matters, I enclose a copy of the most recent issue of It Really Matters.  If you would like to see the survey results or speak with members of the committee seeking to protect their parish from demolition and unwanted renovation, I would be pleased to put you in touch with them.  If you would like copies of prior Newsletters, please contact me.  I simply felt that in a spirit of “honesty and integrity” I should be sure that you knew of the situation and had received this communication involving a project of your firm.

Very truly yours,

 (signature)

 Diane C. Harris, Editor of It Really Matters;  member of Our Lady of the Lakes

LaBella’s rudeness in not replying to this letter, and in not acting as one would expect an architect to act (with sensitivity to the community in which they leave their work behind ) is perhaps nothing less than knowing on which side their bread is buttered.   But what many may not know is that the unpopular turbine windmills in Prattsburg and Italy Valley and Cohocton (controversial to say the least in Naples, and with some parishioners having financially benefited and others having suffered from the negative impact on their environment) is but one other way in which LaBella has brought its bread to be buttered.  And, more recently, LaBella acquired a hydrofracking consulting company in Pennsylvania.  Does that have anything to do with the Courier article on hydrofracking?  or to do with buttering more bread?

There is still no financial report on this project from Our Lady of the Lakes administration, nor have St. Jan’s folks (or other OLOL parishioners) yet received year-end June 30, 2011 financial reports for their parishes.  It is hard to understand why parishioners continue to give anything, when they can’t ensure it is spent properly.  

The Mystery of St. Jan’s Financials

As for all parishes in the Diocese of Rochester, and to align with priests’ starting and ending dates as pastors and in new assignments, the DoR fiscal year (FY) begins July 1 and ends on June 30.  Thus, the FY 2011 began July 1, 2010 and ended June 30, 2011.  In the summer of 2010 (at the beginning of FY 2011) Fr. Ring wrote to parishioners and summer visitors alike at St. Januarius, telling them that Wegmans were contributing $300,000 for the renovation of St. Jan’s sanctuary, and asking his addressees to donate $30,000 (unclear if in addition to or part of the supposed pledge by Wegmans) and saying that it was a memorial to Bob Wegman.  Fr. Ring’s (and Fr. George Wiant’s) exact words on the letter they signed were:

“…The Wegman family, in memory of Robert Wegman, has generously offered to fund this, though also wanting parishioners involved, raising part of the money. The approximate cost of the renovation will be $300,000. We are expected to raise $30,000 from our parish. The Wegman family will provide the remaining funds. Such an opportunity is unlike [sic] to come our way again….”         (Summer 2010)

Some months later, Danny Wegman denied he was giving $300,000, and said he was giving only $50,000 although he’d been asked for $300,000.  He also denied that it was to have been a memorial to his father, Bob Wegman, and he denied that he required that parishioners had to give $30,000, saying he only wanted to be sure that parishioners were supportive (which we know from surveys that they were not.)

It is interesting that today the fundraising letter and pages of other project detail have disappeared from the OLOL website.  Fr. Ring never set forth an explanation or apology for doing fund raising with untrue representations.   All that remains on the OLOL website  is before and after (see above) pictures of the Sanctuary and the following text:  (We show OLOL’s words in blue, and our comments in red.)   Note: LaBella, Fr. Ring, and Wegmans are not even mentioned.  However, one can see in OLOL’s statements the efforts to defend what some consider the indefensible.  One can also see the blatant error in both the text below, and the picture above.

“In 2011 the sanctuary area was renovated that:

  • Provides a special area created solely for the Tabernacle (one positive — OLOL has stopped improperly calling it a chapel.)  However, the squared-off back and the massiveness seem to tip the entire sanctuary off center.  This OLOL comment ignores what so many see as a demotion of the Real Presence from the Center of the Sanctuary to a place near the exit door. 
  • Lowered the sanctuary height from four steps to two steps (this is a lie:  the Sanctuary was previously one step up, prior to the renovation.  Now it is two steps up.  The altar – not the sanctuary – was lowered from 4 to 2 steps, ignoring the fears that it would be too low) to find a balance between being too high for the parishioners sitting in the front pews while still being high enough to be seen during Mass by parishioners sitting in the rear.   Recent feedback indicates that all the fears of having the altar too low are true; people in the rear are having trouble seeing, just as we’d predicted!  We have been told that at a recent, well-attended funeral, someone reported not being able to see the Tabernacle, or to see anyone at the ambo, and only the top of the celebrant’s head. )
  • The existing altar was removed. The top from the existing altar was cut and refinished to be used as the new altar top. A new base was constructed that is more stable than the previous base. Other pieces of the existing altar were used in the new ambo and tabernacle area.  To some, this seems a desecration of a sacred, consecrated object.  Others have expressed a feeling of loss, and wonderment as to why they weren’t told until the deed was done.
  • The main lighting was replaced with new features that brighten the church while keeping in mind energy conservation.  Please note that if you look in the sanctuary lamp there are two old style lights that remain. These lights were in the previous church that was torn down in 1966, thus maintaining some continuity throughout the history of St. Januarius’.   There have been a number of compliments about the new lighting being brighter and easier to read.
  • To help make the church more accessible to the handicap, the doors on the west entrance were replaced with handicap accessible powered doors and a ramp was added to provide access to the sanctuary area.  The ramp has been generally seen as unnecessary, taking up of too much space and its railings casting unpleasant shadows; however, in the accompanying  “cutsey” photography,  pains were taken to align the shadows of the railings with the railings themselves, so the shadow doesn’t show.  But that is only for the benefit of anyone choosing to stand on a ladder in the middle of the aisle during Mass.   By aligning the rail just over the altar, the shadows are also hidden, and by subtle positioning of the presider chair some of the shadows are masked, though some are still seen near the presider chair.  The above OLOL (blue) text doesn’t mention the blockage of light by the rear wooden wall, and its overbearing look,  or the weird shadows from the top of the wooden wall lurking in the background.  That the floor space has been radically minimized and that the organist can’t even see the presider aren’t mentioned either.
  • The project was originally estimated at $300,000.  The renovation was split into two phases. Phase I is the work described above.  Phase II is expected to include replacing the slide partition between the church and the hall and the construction of a new baptismal font.  There is no date scheduled for Phase II.   Now, the questions really are “How much money was raised?  How much was spent?  How much is left?  Where is it?  And why don’t the financial statements show these details?”  It isn’t as if we have no financial statements, but  available statements through May, 2011,  raise more questions than answers.  For example, on the May balance sheet, does the $55,229.30 in “Renovation Fund Liabilities” mean that much is still owed?  To whom?  Where are the funds to cover it?  And what is the $43,551.02 liability to OLOL and does it have anything to do with pushing the liability to St. Jan’s without the funds?

 

Fr. Ring and certain members of his staff said in September/October 2010 that nearly $30,000 was raised from St.Jan’s parishioners.  However, through December 2010 no such income showed up either in Revenues, or as a separate asset.  At that time, St. Januarius had not yet been merged into OLOL, and if there really had been such funds raised for the St. Jan’s renovations, where were they posted?  Were they in the OLOL account?  Or in a Diocesan account?  That would seem to be improper accounting, as there is an apparent liability on the December 2010 St. Jan’s balance sheet of $22,196 owed for renovations.  If money had been given for this purpose, it shouldn’t be in a separate corporation’s savings, earning interest for that corporation and not deployed for the purposes for which it was given.  Similarly, the question becomes “Where does the supposed $50,000 from Wegmans show up on the St. Jan’s balance sheet?  Is this total of approximately $80,000 “someplace else?”  Why?  Where?

While we’d hoped to have some definitive  financial reports to include and explain on this blog, including how much La Bella was paid for their work, all still seems to be a secret, as well as how much was collected, was there money left over or were there cost overruns, and how can so much be spent for such little architectural merit?

Life With LaBella:

Holy Week Jack-hammer

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Easter 2011

 

Welcome Summer Visitors

Jesus near the exit door

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
After posting this segment, I was searching through the DoR Directory and came across an advertisment by LaBella.  To me it was kind of shocking, although not really surprising, to see what they consider a good ad for the Diocese:  an empty church, 4 steps up to the Sanctuary (which is what they created their work around removing in Naples) and a Sanctuary area which can only be examined with a “Huh?”  What IS it supposed to be?  The vision of DoR for its churches?  Well, after all, the Diocese does hire LaBella consistently, and even permits this ad to be in the Annual DoR directory.  What else are we to think if not a shared vision?  Click on the picture to see more detail.
 

LaBella Ad in 2011 DoR Directory

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11 Responses to “Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me — Part XIV — LaBella is not so “bella””

  1. avatar christian says:

    Everything you have stated points to the manipulation of the Diocese in carrying out their plans without getting input from parishioners, yet wanting them to foot the bill.

    There are a lot of parishioners – from my church and other churches – who will not be giving anything in the CMA appeal this year. They hope to send a loud, clear message to the Diocese of Rochester in response to the Diocesan dealings.

  2. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    Don’t give the money to the special collection/CMA Appeal and they will take it out of parish funds anyway. It’s a no win situation. We are expected to pray and pay as the old saying goes!!

    As far as sending a message to the diocese, remember the psalm: habent aures sed non audiant/ they have ears but do not hear !!

  3. avatar militia says:

    Christian and Raymond are both right. The best strategy is to give NOTHING to the CMA and return the blank envelope with a note as to why! Yes, the diocese will take it out of the parish’s savings, but then give the CMA donation you would have given to the parish to cover it. That way your parish doesn’t leave the impression that the goal was achieved so the diocese can raise it again next year.

    The whole CMA process is unfair anyway. Instead of tweaking each parish’s numbers by the pastor’s standing or by which church they want to close, they should just levy a flat tax on all contributions made in the parish, and make an exception if needed for a really good reason, such as a lower rate for a parish with a school, or for a poor inner city church (if any are left!).

    Otherwise, their view is “Well, they paid it. Let’s increase it again next year.”

    The new bishop should get our input and an earful on the CMA. Not every diocese does it that way. When TGA became CMA wasn’t it the poor who suffered? Now we mostly pay salaries to employees rather than for care to those who need it. I’m not even sure it is ethical to give to the CMA because of this issue.

    Is it too early to begin writing letters to “Next Rochester Bishop”; “Please hold for arrival.” And keeping a copy to send when the next bishop arrives, just to be sure he got it?

    On the St. Jan’s subject, I wonder if those people who gave money to make it happen can look at that stage setting and not feel guilty about the good that wasn’t done, so that a pastor could play games with the architects? Shame on them all.

  4. avatar annonymouse says:

    I still cannot see how these renovations could possibly have run upwards of $300,000. And I am sorry to Diane and others from St. Jan’s, but I thought this church was hideous before the renovation, and I still do. For $300,000, couldn’t something have been done with the multi-colored stained glass wall?

    Bernie, what say you on St. Jan’s stained glass?

    With respect to the content of this (and previous) of Diane’s posts on the subject, if what Diane says is even half true, it’s a terrible disgrace. I suspect Father Ring will have a harder time getting his own way in his current (can you say affluent?) assignment.

  5. avatar ROBERT says:

    I think the original concept of the “stained glass” was grapes to reflect the local crop and that if the Finger Lakes? I also think the idea came from architect Johnson as Naples Italy…Italy Valley] being grape country. Didn’t John also design the “liberty stick” downtown? I’s love a grape pie from Ruth’s ! ?
    Of ALL that has been written about this, no one will ever get the truth about the money. If they covered up the priest scandal, good luck on this one! Pastors, Kuchman, Riefer, Bolger, et al are turned over in their graves!

  6. avatar ROBERT says:

    Please excuse my spelling screw up above. The REPLY didn’t seem to work correctly. So: if = of; I’s = I’d and John = Johnson. I also think Johnson did St. John’s in Greece [NY]. Thanks.

  7. avatar Diane Harris says:

    First, I’d like to thank Robert for his insightful post on the history of St. Jan’s. It drove me back into the celebratory brochure distributed on October 7, 2001 in honor of St. Jan’s 125th anniversary. It was less than a month after Fr. Ring’s arrival, although the program included a note from him which said, in part: “What a tremendous joy for me to join this community….I feel truly blessed to serve a community with such a long history of worship and witness…the parish continues to thrive (and grow)….You are an inspiration!…may God grant us years together….”

    Elsewhere in the program it notes that a little over a month earlier that St. Jan’s had 325 families. By the time the directory was done in 2004, Fr. Ring had pastored that down to 245 families, and from his arrival to his departure, less than a decade later, Mass attendance declined 46%! (Local population grew over that same period!)

    There was also a letter of commendation from Bishop Clark, extolling “the hope-filled mothers and fathers in faith whose sacrifices and vision provided for the establishment of this wonderful parish…laying the foundation, building the structure and sustaining this parish through the many years.” How could anyone have known then that it would be that Bishop and his appointee, Fr. Ring, in secretive and relentless collaboration, who would produce such damage?

    But back to the points which Robert raises above. I checked out the names of those he senses are “turned over in their graves.” He mentions Rev. Bernard Kuchman, who was pastor from 1964-71, and Rev. Charles Riefer who served sometime in the 1912-19 period. I did not find a Fr. Bolger on the list, although a Fr. Blaier is listed just before Fr. Kuchman.

    Regarding the unusual and unique architecture of the Church, we can confirm Robert’s explanations too. Here’s what the program said:

    “By 1964 [note this date regarding the emerging confusion from Vatican II]the parish had grown to 98 families. At this time, the pastor, Rev. Bernard Kuchman, was inspired to establish a shrine to our Lady that would reflect the town’s grape industry. A painting called the “Madonna of the Grapes” by the seventeenth century French artist, Pierre Mignard, seemed appropriate because it features the Madonna holding a bunch of grapes as well as the Child. Father Kuchman obtained a color print of this painting and installed it in an ornamental shrine in the wooden church.”

    “In January of 1965, under the guidance of the pastor, Father Kuchman, $47,200 was raised in cash and pledges for construction of a new church. According to the Naples Historical Society publication, Naples Today, the pastor recognized the need for a larger church and contracted with architects James Johnson and Peter Romeo, both of Rochester, to design and build a new church in a Swiss chalet style designed to fit the hilly Naples surroundings.”

    “Construction of the 300 seat church occurred during 1965 and 1966 and cost $175,000. The floor plan of the church reprsents a grape leaf while the colored stained-glass windows represent the various types of grapes grown in the valley. The molded concrete panels represent grape vines and the outside roof resembles a Swiss chalet. The church was dedicated by Bishop Futon J. Sheen on May 26, 1968.”

    “The church altar [apparently the one recently destroyed in the renovation] was made by employees of the Gunlocke Chair Company and was donated by Howard Gunlocke of Wayland, then owner of the company. Two lamps from the old church were installed in the altar area of this new church. Initially the wooden Stations of the Cross from the old church were also used, but were eventually replaced by more modern metal Stations designed by Darryl Abraham. [It was Darryl Abraham’s work which also disappeared during the recent renovation.] ….”

    Although Fr. Ring has made disparaging remarks about the “Swiss Cheese Church,” there is no indication in the 125th Celebration materials that such an expression was recognized or used beyond a few hyper-critics, or in fun. There is no indication, as has been hinted, that there was any divisiveness even mildly resembling the divisive destructiveness recently perpetrated, or any sense that the pastor at the time coerced the parishioners.

    There are two points to this post. One is to supply fill-in information for Robert’s efforts and placement of some historic context. The other is to show that there was a basis in the hearts and minds of the parishioners to create a special site, whether today it is appreciated or not.

    There are two cautions worth noting. One is that in viewing the pictures of the sanctuary, that any “balloon” effect around the windows is not what is seen in person. It seems to be an artifact of photography in certain sunlight conditions, and is way over-emphasized in pictures. The second point is that most people do love their churches, whether beautiful St. Andrew in Rochester, or the style of St. Thomas the Apostle, or the unique architecture of St. Januarius in Naples or the very simple country feel of St. Mary’s in Rushville. Those churches are special to the people who were baptized, married, brought their children to the faith, or buried their parents or grandparents from the site. They gave money, served at Mass, sang in the choir, heard the Word preached, and let it all capture their hearts. I think there is much, much too little respect paid in diocesan closures to how intertwined people are with their churches, and too much treating of the beloved structures as just bricks and mortar. No matter how much anyone may be critical of a particular group’s place of worship, I believe we shouldn’t fall through the trap-Dor either, into condemning what is close to the people’s hearts without realizing its importance and respecting their sensitivity.

  8. avatar ROBERT says:

    Diane, I may have confused you on the pastors as they were not all from St Januarius. Bernie Kuchman was after his ill tenure as pastor of St. Andrew’s, Rochester. I knew him via my Dad who worked with his brother at the post office in Rochester. I also recollect that Bernie was a vocation of Msgr. Eckel at St. Andrew’s. Darcey Bolger was pastor as was Bill Riefer at Stanley and Rushville and had good communications with St. Jan’s. Bolger was from the St.Bernards class of ’36 and Riefer, ’43. I spent many a 40 hours w/them as we were good friends and Bill R. was a ski buddy at Bristol & also spent many a dinner at the “Town Pump” in Phelps. I guess I’m just pointing out that there was a different atmosphere there in the 60’s – 70’s. It is unfortunate that it couldn’t have continued. Sometimes the lesson has to be learned, leave things alone, people don’t like change and change drives people away. And I guess that’s what we have now. PAX!

  9. avatar christian says:

    “The second point is that most people do love their churches, whether beautiful St. Andrew in Rochester, or the style of St. Thomas the Apostle, or the unique architecture of St. Januarius in Naples or the very simple country feel of St. Mary’s in Rushville. Those churches are special to the people who were baptized, married, brought their children to the faith, or buried their parents or grandparents from the site. They gave money, served at Mass, sang in the choir, heard the Word preached, and let it all capture their hearts. I think there is much, much too little respect paid in diocesan closures to how intertwined people are with their churches, and too much treating of the beloved structures as just bricks and mortar. No matter how much anyone may be critical of a particular group’s place of worship, I believe we shouldn’t fall through the trap-Dor either, into condemning what is close to the people’s hearts without realizing its importance and respecting their sensitivity.”-Diane Harris
    EXCELLENT POINT!
    I would never make derogatory comments about another person’s church because I know how intertwined they are with that church. I can identify. Another point-there are church buildings designed in different time periods with special significance. You can behold the special charisma of another church without diminishing your own.

    The one thing I do get upset with is a pastor making independent decisions about church interior without benefit of parishioner input. One parish (not St. Andrew Church) had a few pastors who took it upon themselves to remove treasured and valuable items which had been in a beautiful, ornate older church for a long time. The one pastor removed the two large white angel statues kneeling in pose of adoration from the altar and threw them in the dumpster. The long-time church custodian, now deceased, saved them from the dumpster. Another pastor began throwing out old church art and valuable paintings in the dumpster. Some of these were spotted and saved. One particular painting was not saved. “The Finding In The Temple” was not only beautiful, but worth a lot of money. The frame alone was an antique and very costly.The church had financial difficulties. The church would have at least benefited if those treasures were sold.

    Parishioners were very upset with the treasures of the church being thrown into the dumpster. They noted that the pastors were there temporarily and only passing through, but they were the devoted, longtime parishioners who would remain and it was their church. I was there one evening when one man voiced his objection to the pastor at a church gathering in church after he noticed something else missing. He asked the pastor how he would like it if he came into his living room and started throwing things away. The pastor looked bewildered. He then told the pastor that’s exactly what he was doing. He was coming into their living room and throwing things away. The man told the pastor it was the people’s House of Worship and he had no right to just come in and throw things away according to his personal preference.

    I don’t think it had a lot of affect on that pastor. It appeared some of the pastors who had come through (who did these type of things) had an attitude of superiority over the people where they thought they could do anything they wanted and what the people wanted didn’t matter. The pastors who threw things out in the dumpster preferred “the modern”, yet this was an older church built near the beginning of the 20th Century-a beautiful Romanesque church. I do not think these particular pastors had a refined taste in art or knew the value of things. One thing is for sure, independently throwing valuable artwork out on the parishioners into the dumpster is no way to pastor people.
    I can’t help but feel that it is a parallel situation with St. Jan’s and Fr. Robert Ring.

  10. avatar christian says:

    I want to clarify my statement – There were only two pastors that I knew of that threw out religious art -statues, paintings, etc. from the church I mentioned. The first who threw out the prostrating angel statues on the altar were who then retrieved from the dumpster from a long-time caretaker, is no longer in the Roman Catholic priesthood. The second pastor who threw out a substantial amount of art pieces into the dumpster, not all of them retrieved by the caretaker, is no longer in this area.

    I think there was an ego-centric nature involved with these two pastors as well as a certain amount of arrogance. Somehow both of these pastors got the idea they could make independent decisions about the church building and the long-standing artwork and parishioners and benefactors should not have input or question their actions.

    Additionally, the pastor who threw out a significant amount of artwork into the dumpster had an impulsive nature. There was no thought to even selling the artwork, just getting rid of it quickly.

    These two pastors also had difficulty interacting with parishioners and staff.

  11. avatar Diane Harris says:

    By the way, the Rochester Business Journal (RBJ) on-line has an article on LaBella’s expansion into the Buffalo market. That brief article is open for comments at http://www.rbj.net/article.asp?aID=189215

    There is much that could be said, not only about the unpopular work they did at St. Jan’s, their lack of responsiveness or communications with the parishioners, or the questionable quality and “value” for what was spent. Also, there is yet another quote by the CEO which seems not to mean much: “The true measure of success is not bricks and mortar, but the strength of our client relationships and the trust they have in us,” said Robert Healy, president of LaBella, in a recent statement. “This dedication to building client trust and strong relationships has been our guiding mission for over 30 years and it will continue to drive us in Buffalo.” If St. Jan’s was an example of building “trust”, poor Buffalo.

    This post has now been edited to include the comments which I posted on the RBJ site, and to reduce redundancy:

    “I hope LaBella has more customer sensitivity in their new ventures than they had at St. Januarius Church in Naples, where two different surveys showed nearly three-quarters of the parishioners opposed LaBella’s $300,000 remodeling project. People expressed concerns that such “redecorating” was inappropriate in these tough economic times, when real human need exists. Their voices were ignored.

    LaBella’s architectural drawings were done in secret nearly a year before parishioners even became aware of the threat to their sanctuary. LaBella did renderings (which look quite different from the result) but did not hold an open meeting with parishioners to present the project and to hear objections or suggestions. They just perpetuated the arbitrary decision of pastor Robert Ring, who himself forbade open discussion of the project at the parish’s Care of the Community meetings. In my opinion, there is much fault on the parts of the Diocese of Rochester and Fr. Ring (who left to become pastor at St. Louis in Pittsford even before the project was completed). But LaBella ignored inquiry correspondence and seemed to abandon their own professional standards of supposedly engendering trust and valuing communications.

    No wonder people now are horrified at the project results; e.g. the lack of visibility from many seats in a full church, the erection of walls which shrink the sanctuary size, an unneeded and intrusive ramp, and the wanton jack-hammering of sacred space. La Bella recently announced it is entering the hydro-fracking arena, maybe a more appropriate field for such work style.”


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