The diocese’s new One Church initiative has been called one of the best programs created to bring the diocese together.
“Of course, it helped a parish financially beyond what they can do themselves, but to me what is much more important is the way it has helped so many different groups and parishes around the diocese to be connected,” said Greg Wolfe, diocesan finance director. “It is what being a diocese is really all about. We aren’t solitary parishes out there.
“To me, there hasn’t been anything quite like it, for all the parishes and schools to rally for one project. … It goes all the way back to the Acts of the Apostles and taking up a collection for Jerusalem. It is not just about the money. It is about the sense of the church community and beyond that, the universal Church. It is a truly a diocesan effort.”
The in-state mission program is like an adopt-a-parish program, but only for parishes and missions in the diocese. One rural mission a year is given a one-time boost to become a thriving community.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor and the diocese’s priest board, the Presbyteral Council, identified St. Luke Church in Warren (Bradley County) as the first partner.
St. Luke bought an old farmers’ co-op in 2017 to renovate for its new church, office and parish hall, but the $1.4 million renovation would be a large hurdle to tackle alone.
Diocesan officials believe One Church has been a success over the past 12 months since it was launched in September 2018.
Patrick Gallaher, Catholic Charities executive director who oversees the initiative, said, “The biggest teaching point I draw from this year is we Arkansas Catholics are concerned about Catholics in Arkansas. … We really do care for our brothers and sisters in our own state. And it’s genuine. I don’t know that the people in the smaller parishes thought that they could get help from within their own state from their own fellow Catholics. I hope it sparks a trend in our state and in our Church.”
Wolfe said as of Aug. 7 One Church donations generated $147,760.03.
A big supporter of One Church has been Christ the King Church in Little Rock. Pastor Msgr. Francis Malone said the parish would focus its financial and other support on One Church instead of operating a mission to Honduras. Wolfe said the parish donated money from an in-pew appeal during Masses and its charitable outreach fund this month. Wolfe said some parishioners have also made pledges to pay over the coming months.
Gallaher said dozens of parishes also have gotten behind the mission of One Church. Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock hosted a basketball tournament. Youth groups at St. Joseph Church in Fayetteville, St. Louis Church Camden and Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Magnolia collected loose change from parishioners.
Even supporters outside Arkansas wanted to help St. Luke Church. In December, Catholic Extension pledged a matching grant, with $2 given for every $1 raised, up to $130,000.
Wolfe said Catholic Extension made an appeal in the Archdiocese of Chicago to pay for the grant. Msgr. Scott Friend, former vicar general, spoke at Masses at St. Paul of the Cross Church in Park Ridge, Ill., about St. Luke’s needs. The parish contributed a sizeable amount so Catholic Extension offered to increase the grant to $140,000 if St. Luke and One Church could raise $70,000.
A parish in the Diocese of Belleville, St. Paul Church in Vienna, Ill., donated $10,000 to Catholic Extension. St. Paul Church once relied on a Catholic Extension grant more than 30 years ago and wanted to pay it forward.
Natalie Donatello, senior manager of parish partnerships for Catholic Extension, told the Belleville Messenger, “Often it’s parishes in places where the Catholic population is a minority within the community. That’s why you’ll find us in places like Jackson, Miss., and Little Rock, Ark.”
When Catholic Extension got the gift from St. Paul Church, it decided to earmark it for St. Luke Church in Warren.
“It would be a close parallel” to St. Paul’s situation back in the 1980s, pastor Father Thomas Barrett told the Belleville Messenger. “More specifically, passing it on and helping them to have a new church.”
In all, St. Luke’s will be given $287,760.03 for its capital campaign through One Church and Catholic Extension.
Pastor Father Eddie D’Almeida said the parishioners so far have pledged $250,000 to pay over a four-year period.
“After Mass we have announcements,” he said. “Typically it is a good time of reminding them that we are building this church and that we aren’t alone. They are helping with the food sales, they are buying some food, to help with the project. (One Church) is a reminder that people care for us, and we care ourselves as well. There are people who want to see our church to flourish.”
Because of One Church, Father D’Almeida has been able to connect his two churches — St. Luke in Warren and the larger Holy Redeemer Church in El Dorado — more closely.
“I’ve had several (El Dorado) parishioners that didn’t even know I was a pastor of another parish,” he said. “We have done several fundraisers in coordination with One Church. A lot of people are still interested in helping our mission, our sister parish. … There have been individuals who have come to Warren to see the construction, to meet the people. They have helped out tremendously through their prayers and their presence.”
He said in addition to prayers and donations, parishes have donated doors, chairs, sound system, speakers and piano. Father D’Almeida said once the old church building is sold, he would like to remove two stained-glass windows to install in the new building to connect the old and new sanctuaries.
He said they are planning to continue their partnership with Christ the King Church in Little Rock to accomplish more goals over the coming year.
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