The groundbreaking for a new church for St. Joseph Parish in Greensburg will take place June 8, following a Mass celebrated by the bishop of the Diocese of Dodge City.
    Bishop Ronald M. Gilmore will say Mass at 10:45 a.m. in the modular building that has been used temporarily for worship on the site where the original church was destroyed by the May 4, 2007, tornado.      
    A reception and a meeting of the St. Joseph parish council with the pastor, Father Gregory S. Le Blanc, will follow the groundbreaking. 
    “We are just tremendously excited — almost exhilarated — by the groundbreaking and the coming construction of the new church,” said Le Blanc, the pastor of St. Joseph and Sacred Heart Parish in Pratt since July 2004. 
    “We have been through so much as a parish since the tornado, and now we are embarking on a new adventure of starting a new church,” the priest added. 
    “The new church will serve from 40 to 45 families from Greensburg, Bucklin, Haviland and Mullinville in Kiowa and Ford counties. And we hope it will grow.”
    The 8,000-square-foot Greensburg church will cost between $600,000 and $650,000, Le Blanc said. The structure will include the worship area, a parish center and a space for religious education, and it will be placed on the same parcel of land as the former church building.
    The building will be constructed of metal and some brick and will resemble Holy Rosary Catholic Church and parish center at Medicine Lodge, which also was constructed of metal. 
    “The former St. Joseph church faced north, but the new church will face west, with the parking lot to the south,” Le Blanc said. "We will incorporate into the design the 10-foot-high bell tower and the church cross, the only bell and cross left standing in Greensburg after the tornado.”
    The western part of the church will be all brick, and the north and south sides will be bricked up four feet. The mechanical parts of the church, such as the air conditioning unit, will be located on the east side of the structure.
    Holy Rosary Church in Medicine Lodge was built in 2000 by the same team that will construct the new Greensburg church The architect is Edward Murabito and Associates of Wichita. Contractor Don Berntsen of Triple B Construction Inc. of Clearwater anticipates the building will be completed approximately 120 days from the project’s beginning. 
    “The initial dirt work will start the next week after the groundbreaking, and within a month, construction will begin on the new church," Le Blanc said.
    Gilmore celebrated the first Greensburg Mass in the modular building for the parish’s 51 families on July 1, 2007, barely two months after the tornado leveled 95 percent of the town.
    With the earlier-than-expected groundbreaking, it seems certain that St. Joseph's parishioners will be sitting in the pews of their new church by Christmas, a year and a half after the horrific tornado.
    “We will celebrate Christmas in the new church, and what a celebration that will be!” Le Blanc said.