MURRAY — Tradition is very important to the parishioners of St. Jude Maronite Parish in Murray, so the thought of having to uproot their congregation is hard for some of them. Despite this, the advantages of a new home for the parish on the west side of the valley definitely outweigh the disadvantages, Father Joubran BouMerhi, pastor, said.
Although located in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, St. Jude Maronite is a Catholic church of the Eastern Rite, and is a parish of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, which is headquartered in St. Louis, MO and is under the direct jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff.
In January, the parish purchased a former Protestant church building at 5445 South 2700 West, Taylorsville. The building, which was constructed in 1994, is completely ADA compliant and has accessible bathrooms. The 1.3-acre site also has 90 parking stalls, 30 more than the parish’s current building. A grassy area on the east side of the building can be used for parish functions and fundraisers, Fr. BouMerhi said.
Renovations began in early October to make the building more appropriate for Catholic worship. The stained glass windows, lecterns, pews, Stations of the Cross and altars from the Murray church will all be incorporated into the new chapel.
“We’re going to take as much out of this building as we can so people think they’re home,” said Tom Allen, one of the parishioners who is helping with the move.
“People have been coming here for 35 years,” he said of the Murray church. “Some of them are upset that we’re going to move because they like this old building.”
Fr. BouMerhi understands their concerns but believes parishioners will be happy with the new building when they get used to the change. “What I have been telling them for five years is ‘It is not what you get out of your building, it is what you bring to the building, your personal devotion, love for the Lord and of our neighbor,’” he said.
The parish has secured a commercial loan for the purchase and renovations, which will be paid off by various fundraisers, including the Living Traditions Festival. The eparchy has also indicated it will help but specifics have not been discussed, Fr. BouMerhi said.
The renovations will be completed in January; upgrades to the hall and kitchen are planned for the future as the parish can afford it.
The Murray church, which formerly housed St. Vincent de Paul Parish, originally was purchased by the Maronites from the Diocese of Salt Lake City. The parish’s first Mass was celebrated on April, 12, 1980. The parish is made up of 100 families from all over the Salt Lake Valley and from other communities, including Park City, Heber, Alpine, Orem, Ogden and Tooele.
The building is accessed by a steep set of stairs at the front, often an impediment for elderly or handicapped individuals. There is no restroom on the upper floor and no access to the basement bathroom from that floor. With all these challenges, Fr. BouMerhi and the parish council decided moving to a new building was the best option.
“We wanted to stay here because we have had so many weddings and funerals here, but inside it is not accommodating,” Fr. BouMerhi said.
The new building, by contrast, is more visible and “will attract newcomers. It will make life much easier. It’s very hard to convince people to come here and climb those stairs,” he said.
Before purchasing the new building, for five years the parish leadership considered various options, including renovating the existing building or demolishing it and constructing a new building on the site. However, both options proved to be cost-prohibitive.
The parish hopes to be able to rent out the current building; city officials would like it to stay a church but under the current zoning and permitting it could be used as a day care, school or funeral home. It will be put on the market in January after the parish relocates, although Fr. BouMerhi said he is happy to enter into negotiations with interested parties ahead of the move.
The rectory will remain in Murray for the foreseeable future, he said.
Once the move is complete, Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles will be invited to dedicate the new church; the celebration will be planned for early next year.
At St. Jude, Mass is celebrated in English, although the consecration is conducted in Syriac, an Aramaic dialect spoken by Jesus. Once a month, Fr. Eleazar Silva, parochial vicar of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, celebrates a Mass there for members of the Hispanic community who have a special devotion to St. Jude. That Mass will continue at the new location.
Fr. BouMerhi asks all Utah Catholics to pray for his congregation, that the move might go smoothly. “The most important thing is to set a good example of unity and work together for the best interests of the Church,” he said.
The Maronite parish has a strong relationship with the Diocese of Salt Lake City, said Fr. BouMerhi, who serves as chaplain for the diocese at Intermountain Medical Center, St. Mark’s, The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital and local nursing homes. He also assists with First Communion and Reconciliation in other parishes when there is a need.