Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 25, 2002
Churches build for the poor
Parishioners take up Habitat hammers to create a home
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Three parishes in the southwest corner of Edmonton have, in the spirit of the jubilee, joined forces to help the needy.
St. Agnes, St. Anthony's and St. Thomas More parishes are working together to build a new house for a needy family.
The dwelling will be built in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that specializes in building affordable housing for the poor. The financing and labour will be provided by the three parishes.
To date, the parishes have raised $42,000 of the $90,000 needed for their joint jubilee year social justice project.
The project objectives include providing a focus for educating the parish membership on the Gospel message of justice, as well as giving an opportunity for them to respond to that message, explained project coordinator and St. Agnes parishioner John Acheson.
The parishes also want to create an opportunity for the faithful to "grow together as a community" and "leave a legacy of the jubilee year for our parishioners and for those who will follow."
The idea sprang from discussions parish members held about the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, which called on Catholics to respond, in concrete and visible ways, to the Gospel's demand for social action.
"I think the jubilee year created an awareness for us that we should be responding to the broader community," Acheson said.
"We wanted to do something tangible that would respond to a real need and would involve as many people within the three parishes as possible," explained Aline McMillan, chair of social justice ministry at St. Thomas More. "So we chose to respond to the need for low-cost housing."
A few months ago, the three parishes made the project an "official parish council project" and appointed members to both the coordinating committee, plus six smaller working committees. At last count, 60 parishioners have put their names forward as volunteers. Many will assist as carpenters, plumbers or electricians when construction starts, either this spring or sometime next year.
"It's a good feeling, a euphoric feeling to be involved in a project like this," McMillan said.
Father Ken West of St. Thomas More Parish is also excited about the project, saying it not only helped unify the three parishes, but also reminds people of their Christian duty. "It's a wonderful opportunity to remind people that the faith calls us to reach out and not just think of ourselves."
Not that the faithful need this reminder. "When people around here see a practical need and something where they know where the money is going, they are very generous," the priest said.
Project leaders have spoken at every Catholic school in the area to try to get students involved in the project. As a result, students from Louis St. Laurent School raised $3,000 for the project. The Ursulines of Jesus, whose convent is located in one of the parishes, recently donated another $4,000.
The rest of the money is being raised through four special parish collections over the year, the first of which took place the weekend of Jan. 19-20. The collection raised just under $35,000.
"We hope through the next three collections we'd then raise that much more," Acheson said.
A silent auction and dinner will be held at St. Thomas More April 19 to help raise money for the house-raising. The parishes are also looking for corporate sponsorships.
"As soon as we reach the $90,000 mark, we will stop," said Acheson. "If we have the money by April, construction will start this spring."
Habitat for Humanity will select both the site where the house will be built and the family who will live in it. Acheson pointed out the house will not just be given to a family. "They are expected to pay for it over a number of years, obviously at a very, very reduced rate."
Making families pay for their Habitat houses generates revenue to build more houses.