PLAINVIEW — When you walk into Father Bill Becker's new home in Plainview, it's the lightness that strikes you.

"It's so open; the light. We never had light like this (at the old rectory)," Becker said. "To have this light is just stunning."

Becker, the parish priest for St. Joachim's and Immaculate Conception churches in Plainview and rural Kellogg, is just getting comfortable in his new home. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom house was built in 2020 after the first two years of a three-year capital campaign raised $305,000 to build the new rectory.

Fr. William Becker feeds his cat Moses as he gives a tour of his new space on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at the new parish rectory in Plainview. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Fr. William Becker feeds his cat Moses as he gives a tour of his new space on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at the new parish rectory in Plainview. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

In fact, 170 of the parish's roughly 600 families have donated thus far, and 70 percent of those donations were given up front. Becker said he didn't want to build until there was at least $250,000, and when the appeal was made to parishioners, they responded fast.

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Needing a new home

The house was a long time coming for the Plainview parish.

Becker said he can still remember his reaction to the old rectory when he arrived in Plainview as the new parish priest in 2011.

"I remember getting out of the car and thinking, what a beautiful house, and as I walked up closer to it, I thought, uh-oh, this is going to need work," he said with a laugh.

Don Dose, a member of the parish since 1978 and the chairman of the parish finance committee, said the old rectory had been on a to-do list for decades, but never seemed to make the top of the list with so many other projects needing to be done.

Becker said when he arrived every roof in the church building – from the narthex and the transept to the gables and the carport – was leaking. Several HVAC systems needed repair.

All this followed work done on the parish center, where the offices, classrooms and meeting space is available for the parish and its religious education programs. And, of course, the parking lot needed to be redone.

Fr. William Becker sits in his prayer space while giving a tour of his new space on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at the new parish rectory in Plainview. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Fr. William Becker sits in his prayer space while giving a tour of his new space on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at the new parish rectory in Plainview. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

All that work, more than $400,000 in repairs, remodeling and upkeep, came out of the pockets of the parishioners over several years. So, the new rectory kept getting pushed back, and Becker lived in the old house – "Father never complained," Dose said – dealing with drafty windows, wiring that hadn't been updated in decades, and five to 10 bats a year sneaking inside.

Built for a different time

Dose said one of the main problems with the old rectory was its size. The home was built at a time when more than one priest lived there, plus two nuns who worked for the parish called it home, and they all had a live-in cleaning lady. The house had seven bedrooms, five of them upstairs.

"To put it bluntly, it was a piece of crap," said Curt Appel, chairman of the parish rectory committee. "It was deteriorating, and every year it was just getting worse."

Trying to update the old house would have cost more than building new since the home would have been required to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning installing an elevator for people to reach the second floor.

The parish leaders decided it was time to give their priest – and any future priests – a nice, new home.

"It’s not fancy or elaborate," said Sharon Schouweiler, director of Faith Formation for the parish. "It’s elegant and simple at the same time."

Becker said parishioners and members of staff like Schouweiler helped him make decisions on materials and design choices for the new home. A front door with lots of little windows was picked over a plain front door. Countertops in the kitchen are made to last and look nice.

A landscaping plan needs to be done, Becker said, and he has one request: "I don't know if I want too many trees blocking the light," he said.

Fr. William Becker feeds his cat Moses as he gives a tour of his new space on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at the new parish rectory in Plainview. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Fr. William Becker feeds his cat Moses as he gives a tour of his new space on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at the new parish rectory in Plainview. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

Fr. William Becker gives a tour of his new space on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at the new parish rectory in Plainview. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Fr. William Becker gives a tour of his new space on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at the new parish rectory in Plainview. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

The footprint of the previous rectory is seen on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at the new parish rectory in Plainview. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
The footprint of the previous rectory is seen on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at the new parish rectory in Plainview. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)