By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — It’s getting closer to the big day.
In 2017, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church turns 100 years old and a campaign continues to get the Derry church ready.
The church on Crystal Avenue launched a major Centennial Renewal Campaign in 2011 to raise approximately $1 million to support upgrades and projects in the years leading up to the 100th anniversary.
“As we prepare to celebrate this 100-year milestone, we must face reality that this church building, the corner of our Catholic community, needs to be protected and preserved,” a letter to parishioners stated when the campaign began.
Since then, major work has been down inside and out.
Crews from Duffley Development Corps. were the latest workers on site. Masonry workers spent several weeks repairing the front steps, sealing cracks and doing overall masonry details.
Steven Duflley said his business does a lot of church work. At St. Thomas, there were 42 steps to be repaired, each weighing about 860 pounds.
The steps were damaged through the years due to large amounts of rock salt scattered during the winter months, Duffley said.
That caused some cracks where moisture would regularly get trapped behind the stone steps.
Duffley is currently working on a project at Ste. Marie Church in Manchester. He said he would return to Derry this week to do final inspection on the St. Thomas steps.
The St. Thomas community began in town in 1888, one of the oldest parishes in the region. The current building has been standing since 1917, following a fire that destroyed an original building three years earlier.
The church work is in four phases: electrical and insulation upgrades, church interior restoration, exterior restoration , and parking lot improvements and resurfacing.
The interior of the church has been repainted and new flooring was installed.
The front step project will complete the major work until spring when the exterior of St. Thomas will be painted and shingles will be replaced.
Members have been generous with their pledges, according to parish coordinator Sandy Sherman.
“They have been very supportive,” she said. “The people of St. Thomas have pulled it together. It’s their parish.”