For nearly 19 years, Bishop-elect Francis I. Malone has pastored Christ the King Church in Little Rock, but his work has extended far beyond the church walls.
Dedicated to mission work, from Honduras to the diocesan One Church program, and continuing the tradition of being a tithing parish to help a variety of organizations in Central Arkansas, Bishop-elect Malone has made sure his flock understands Jesus’ call to action in help those in need.
“I think it sets an excellent example of the mission call we all have to go forth and spread the good news. It helps us to develop a heart for those in need. A willingness to extend ourselves sacrificially, either through donations or through our own labor,” said parish mission director Betty Jo King. “And also, even more important, it opens us to building relationships and evangelizing. Sharing the stories of our faith with one another will only strengthen it. I think it’s incredibly important for a pastor to set that tone for the parish and certainly Bishop-elect Malone has done that well.”
When Bishop-elect Malone came to Christ the King in June 2001, he continued the work of Msgr. J. Gaston Hebert with the Honduras mission, which began in 1996. Parish tithing started in 1994.
Up until 2017, when the last mission went to Honduras, Christ the King parishioners served the Diocese of Trujillo, by supporting 11 schools, which included renovations, equipping two operating room suites at the local hospital, opening clinics and performing surgeries, building three new churches and three church additions and establishing computer, sewing and woodworking programs.
“The mission grew tremendously under Bishop-elect’s time here,” King said. “… He has a tremendous love for the poor.”
Due to safety concerns for missionaries and communication issues in the area, Bishop-elect Malone decided to end the international mission last year, turning the focus to the Diocese of Little Rock’s One Church initiative. The Catholic Charities of Arkansas program began in September 2018, choosing a parish within the diocese that needed assistance to become a thriving faith community. For one year, parishes around the diocese donate to that church. St. Luke Church in Warren was the first church assisted.
“He spoke to me at great length about his desire to really focus in on the need here in our own state, in our own diocese; to help the poor in need right here, in our own towns. And to be of that consistent presence, help and support in their lives throughout the year,” King said, who was hired in 2018 to lead the mission board.
Christ the King raised $35,000 for St. Luke Church and donated several sets of tables and chairs, desks and other supplies. King said Bishop-elect Malone wanted the parish to continue assisting St. Luke even after the Warren effort ended in August.
Assisting those in need all year fits with Christ the King’s tradition of being a tithing parish. For 26 years, 10 percent of Mass collections during the fiscal year starting in June are given back to organizations benefiting Pulaski County, said Teri Tribby, parish life/outreach director. Ten percent of earnings from the annual Rexfest fundraiser weekend are also given to the community.
Tribby said in order to apply for a grant, organizations do not have to be Catholic, but they must prove the good work they’re doing in the community along with being a 501c3 nonprofit. The outreach and finance committees evaluate the applications. There are 27 agencies supported through tithing grants, including Abba House, Arkansas Pregnancy Resource Center, Arkansas Food Bank, Catholic Charities of Arkansas Immigration Services and Westside Free Medical Clinic, Jericho Way and Helping Hand. In the last fiscal year, July 1-June 30, the parish donated $250,000, which is the average, Tribby said.
“I love that he reminds the parish all the time that we’re a tithing parish and what that means,” Tribby said.
When Tribby came back to work at Christ the King, after previously working under Msgr. Hebert and then nine years at the Diocese of Little Rock, Bishop-elect Malone asked her to visit all the organizations that benefited from tithing and write a report on what she saw.
“The fact that he cared and had me go to such great lengths to find out what’s going on in our community, it’s amazing to see the good that’s happening out in the world,” she said.
For Bishop-elect Malone, Tribby said he always related tithing and missions to Jesus’ love for us in action.
“We constantly have to remind parishioners we are doing good in the community ... That’s the message that he wanted all of us to remember. It’s not just you putting a check in that parish collection basket or going to Mass,” she said, adding his commitment, “refueled my fire. I want to do good in the world. It’s why I worked with the Church.”
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