Costa Mesa church’s plans for new bathrooms, stalled by pandemic, finally accomplished
Leaders at Costa Mesa’s Saint Joachim Catholic Church broke out the holy water Friday, celebrating the fulfillment of a years-long effort to replace two incommodious commodes — at the cost of $1.1 million — with a blessing of brand-new facilities.
Fr. Mike Hanifin led a small outdoor ceremony attended by a handful of church faithfuls with a prayer and remarks recognizing an undertaking that, thanks to a worldwide pandemic and ransomware attack, turned out to be more colossal than anyone had anticipated.
“We recognize the selfless generosity and sacrifice of so many parishioners and benefactors who contributed toward this project that will benefit the Saint Joachim community presently and in the future,” he said.
“We pray that health and healing may abide within these walls and teach each person to respect the dignity of their bodies.”
Concluding the rite, Hanifin walked among the new restrooms and an attached bride’s room sprinkling holy water from a handheld aspergillum. All in all, seven women’s stalls and four stalls and three urinals in the men’s room were attended to.
The previous accommodations comprised two unisex restrooms with one stall apiece. Not easily accessible, the two toilets simply could not adequately serve the needs of churchgoers, whose population during Sunday Mass can swell to 750 strong, according to parish director Ree Taylor.
“They’re terrible — they’re small and old, and I don’t think you could get a wheelchair in the doors,” Taylor said of the 1960s-era fixtures, adding church members have been known to trek across the courtyard to use newer facilities at the church school or nearby fellowship hall.
Recognizing a need for new restrooms, church leaders set out in 2019 to determine if the parish could sustain a capital campaign large enough to fund the work, then estimated at $554,000.
Fundraising was halted due to pandemic shutdowns, but by 2021, officials launched “75 for 75,” asking each parish family to donate $75 in honor of Saint Joachim’s 75th anniversary in 2022. The ask raised more than $25,000.
Pledge promises and fundraisers, combined with the addition of a second collection at each weekend mass generated another $24,306. When a ransomware attack wiped out the church’s records of pledges and online payments, churchgoers persevered.
“We had some hurdles to overcome, but the community stepped up,” said Taylor’s husband, Mike Flores, who led the campaign, which had raised $480,000 by October 2021.
But the plan hit a snag when church leaders put out a request for proposals to complete the work and learned the project cost had swelled to more than $900,000. Undaunted, the community looked for elegant solutions — and found them.
The church’s Comite Hispano, a congregation of small groups of Spanish-speaking parishioners, decided to sell tamales, pozole and tacos after mass. In a period of about five months, they managed to contribute $23,451 to the cause.
“We’d make around 3,000 tamales each weekend, and we donated everything. For the Hispanic community, that was the best way to give,” said Costa Mesa resident Alma Cortes, 48. “We not only raised money, we built a community through this.”
When the church still fell short of its target goal, leaders from the nearby parishes of Our Lady Queen of Angels and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Newport Beach and Saint John Vianney Chapel on Balboa Island rallied to bridge the gulf.
The new restrooms are due to open to the church-going public on Saturday. After that, leaders will look at needs still remaining. The air-conditioning system, for example, could use an upgrade. But maybe not just yet, Flores said.
“For right now, we’ll take a deep breath and say, ‘Thank you, God, for giving us the spirit and motivation to make this happen,’” he said.
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