Wednesday, May 21, 2008

40 Days: Save Our Lady's for Nashville Hispanics

Stress continues to mount as advocates for Nashville's Hispanic community -- led by the Rev. Joe Pat Breen -- struggle to raise funds to keep the new Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church from closing on or after June 30.

That's the deadline to repay three generous local Catholics who -- a year ago -- put up $1.5 million for the land and buildings that now represent the first Hispanic Catholic church in this Middle Tennessee diocese. The church opened with much celebration last November. Weekend masses have been drawing more than 5,000 people.

If the three local Catholics are not repaid by June 30, Our Lady's will be forced to take out a loan with the Catholic diocese. And the church, which serves mostly the working poor, cannot afford a monthly loan payment and pay for the operations and staff of Our Lady's. That's why it would be forced to close.

Father Breen, who is the pastor of the nearby Catholic church of St. Edward, has made Our Lady's part of his congregation's mission. The parish has given almost $250,000 to settle the debt. But it cannot make up for the $500,000 that still is needed by the end of the next 40 days.

Forty days is a figure that shows up frequently in our faith. The 40 days are often a time of testing of how much we believe, of how much we are ready for the next challenge in life that God puts before us and our family.

A most generous gift this week from St. Philip Catholic Church in Franklin, TN., has helped close the gap to $500,000. Other area Catholic churches and schools have been contacted to help, in the spirit of Pope Benedict's recent call for Americans to protect our immigrants.

These next 40 days are going to be difficult. So much is at stake. Nashville Hispanics are under siege from the inhumane 287(g) deportation policy. More than 3,000 Hispanics have been deported in one year after being arrested for minor traffic offenses and even fishing without a license. Families have been torn apart. Children are living in fear that their parents will not be home when they return from school. As Father Breen told his congregation last Sunday, "We would not treat animals this way."

Our Lady's is a refuge in these Hispanic lives from that kind of treatment. To take it away now would be a tragedy for people already beset by outrage and fear.

If you are reading this blog post, please consider giving anything you can to help keep Our Lady's open. A donation of $10 or $20 or $30, coupled with many others, can make a difference. Or consider asking your church to make a contribution.

Here's how to give: Make out a check to "St. Edward Catholic Church"; in the memo part of the check, write "for Our Lady of Guadalupe."

Mail the check to St. Edward Catholic Church, Attn: Father Breen, 188 Thompson Lane, Nashville, TN., 37211.

Or go the church's website and make a credit card donation. The address is
On the left side of the main page, you'll find a listing for Our Lady of Guadalupe. You can also view a presentation on the church.

May is the Marian Month. There is no better way to honor the Holy Mother in her month than to keep open a church named in her honor. Mary has always been there to protect the Hispanic people. Her appearance in Mexico is the only time the Holy Mother has been officially seen in this hemisphere.

I can assure you from my personal involvement that your donation to honor her will end up in the right hands and for the right cause of protecting our immigrant brothers and sisters. May God help us over these next 40 days.

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