Four months after the Diocese of Little Rock unveiled its in-state mission initiative called One Church, much progress has been made toward helping St. Luke Church in Warren.
While the parish is looking to raise at least $500,000 for its capital campaign, the Diocese of Little Rock is asking parishes, schools and organizations to make additional donations or hold fundraisers to support One Church.
One Church, which was announced by Bishop Anthony B. Taylor Sept. 29, is an effort to support a struggling church in the state for a 12-month period that needs a one-time financial boost to become a thriving community. For St. Luke Church, it means helping parishioners raise enough money to begin renovations on the old farmers’ co-op to become their new church campus. The current building, which is more than 100 years old, needs major repairs and is too small for their congregation. They have no parish hall or parking lot. The religious education building only has room to schedule two classes at a time.
The 60 families fill the 175-seat sanctuary very quickly for their one weekend Mass, forcing more than a dozen people to stand in the sacristy and another dozen to stand in the back of church.
Father Eddie D’Almeida, St. Luke’s pastor, said parishioners so far have pledged $253,000 toward the $500,000 goal. He said parishioners continue to hold parish dinners after Sunday night Mass each week to raise more money.
The pastor said the church has been saving for more than 10 years to be able to build or buy a larger building and had already been able to save about $80,000. In 2017 the farmer co-op became available. The $200,000 property, including a warehouse, co-op store and mechanics shop, is large enough for the parish to have room for Mass and classes and even an office and parking lot.
The new 15,512-square-feet St. Luke campus renovations will include a 300-seat sanctuary, a church office and seven classrooms. Renovations could also include a parish hall if enough funds are raised.
Construction will hopefully begin this spring or summer, Father D’Almeida said.
“They are excited,” the pastor said about his parishioners. “They have seen the videos, we put out the article. Almost every week we have food sales. We talk about that we are here helping each other, but we also recognize that throughout the diocese there are many people who want to help.”
Father D’Almeida also is the pastor of Holy Redeemer Church in El Dorado. That parish has also been supportive of raising money for One Church, including a quilt raffle in December. A couple from Center Ridge donated a car to raise money for One Church and Holy Redeemer Church is handling the sale.
Patrick Gallaher, director of Catholic Charities of Arkansas, said 14 churches and organizations and three diocesan offices as well as 56 donors have donated $24,148 so far, with the state Knights of Columbus pledging to support One Church with a statewide fundraiser.
One Church got another boost in December when Catholic Extension offered a grant up to $130,000 if the diocese or parish raises at least $65,000 by Oct. 1. It will match $2 for every $1 raised. The organization based in Chicago has already sent $30,000 with the promise of sending the remainder once $65,000 in new donations are raised.
Gallaher said $24,000 is a significant amount of money reflecting the generosity of the Catholics in the diocese.
“This is a first year of the program, and we’re just getting the ball rolling. The momentum building is exciting,” Gallaher said.
Gallaher said the Knights of Columbus state council has accepted the challenge to try to raise the $65,000 to ensure that the Extension grant is received.
“It’s heartening to see the Knights of Columbus becoming involved,” he said.
Gallaher said he is visiting personally with pastors to tell them more about One Church in hopes more churches, schools and organizations will support the initiative.
Checks can be mailed to Catholic Charities of Arkansas, 2500 N. Tyler St., Little Rock, AR 72207, with the notation “St. Luke Warren.”
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