Thursday, July 24, 2008

The amazing heroics and new momentum behind Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church

The congregation at St. Edward Catholic Church placed more of its faith in action behind the new Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Nashville by agreeing yesterday to be responsible for a $400,000 loan to pay the $1.5 million debt for OLG's creation.

In addition, the Frist Foundation stepped forward yesterday to give $100,000 to buy computers and establish offices and classrooms for Catholic Charities and St. Mary's Villa CDC at Our Lady's.

Catholic Charities, chaired by attorney Gregg Ramos and daily led by executive director William Sinclair, will shift its services to Nashville immigrants to Our Lady's. St. Mary's will offer pre-K daycare to children of working mothers. That's a marvelous service to the Midstate economy let alone Hispanic working families.

"We originally asked for consideration of funding from Frist for our computer needs on the campus," Sinclair said in a prepared statement. "Pete Byrd became interested in the array of services we will be offering and visited the campus.

"He 'encouraged' our team to expand the request to include: all computers for Charities, the CDC and a bank of 10 stations and a server for the network; all telephone systems and sets for both Charities and SMV; all office equipment for Charities and a generous amount for the SMVCDC to purchase classroom equipment.

"Pete Bryd also told us that they know we need the funds now to be able to move forward and they are sending the entire $100k next week."

The Frist family continues to give to a better Nashville. Their generosity and judgment in providing Mr. Byrd the flexibility to help in a broader and visionary way is most appreciated.

A busy history thanks to a strong shepherd
Our Lady's opened Dec. 12, 2007, on Nolensville Road, in the former home of Radnor Baptist Church. Now it is one of the largest Catholic churches in Tennessee, with 5,000 people attending weekend masses.

Despite the large numbers, it has been one man and his faith that has made Our Lady's possible. Father Joe Pat Breen signed the loan documents with the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, making him officially responsible for two Catholic parishes.

That's a lot to take on for a 73-year-old Nashville native with heart problems. That's a lot for one man to take on, being responsible for answering appeals by the late Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict the XVI to look after Nashville Hispanics and immigrants nationwide.

Father Breen has taken the pastoral, diocesan and political lead in shepherding the enormous Hispanic Catholic population in Nashville. He should be retired or considering retirement. Yet the unofficial "Bishop of Flat Rock" continues by deed to earn his title and gain more admirers.

Beyond raising more than $500,000 in the community and contributing $5,000 of his own money, Father Breen has encouraged his flock to take ownership of the fate of their Hispanic brothers and sisters -- and fellow immigrants.

St. Edward's congregation has contributed more than $330,000 over two years toward making Our Lady's in Nashville a reality. Even now amid a recession, it continues to contribute about $3,000 each Sunday. The working poor congregation of Our Lady's has given more than $80,000 toward retiring the debt.

Two large and affluent Catholic congregations have stepped forward to contribute $125,000. St. Philip's in Franklin and then pastor Rev. Kirk contributed an astonishing $100,000. The Williamson County church also has its own Hispanic ministry. Holy Family Catholic Church and Father Ed Alberts gave a most generous $25,000 amid its own building campaign.

Those who have participated personally and congregationally in giving to the miracle of Our Lady's should now consider themselves officially invited to be part of the upcoming 500th anniversary of Our Lady's only appearance in the Western Hemisphere. Set aside Dec. 12, 2031, for the greatest celebration Nashville has ever seen.

Paying rent and sweat equity while giving service
Besides providing critical community services, Catholic Charities and St. Mary's will be paying more than $30,000 annually in rent to Our Lady's for their offices. So that will help the congregation make the large monthly payment on the diocese's loan.

In regards to the Frist Foundation donation tied to these organizations, Sinclair added: "My compliments to Eileen Beehan, Shirley Lopihandia and Terry Horgan of Catholic Charities and Mike Miller of St. Mary Villa CDC for putting together a great proposal in a very short period of time."

Despite the greatly reduced price for the buildings and property that now make up Our Lady's, about $300,000 in spending has been needed to refuribish the 72,000 square feet in the buildings. Various lots of land also have had to be cleared. Lawn maintenance equipment had to be purchased. Carpeting, painting, air conditioners and new windows are just some of the needed projects.

If not for the sweat equity of parishoners, that cost would be multiplied several times over in labor hours and artisan skills. Altars and chairs have been carved in wood and stone and donated. Votive candles stands have been wielded and painted. Murals have been done by children and professional artists. The list goes on and on.

It ultimately is the goal of Our Lady's advocates to retire the $400,000 loan as soon as possible. That way, the church can be on its own financially and expand its mission to address needs and opportunities. So monetary donations are still needed for this miracle. If you are reading this post, please send me an e-mail and I'll tell how to give, or call Father Breen at (615) 833-5520. Any gift of any size is welcome.

On Tuesday, Father Breen, OLG pastor Father Fernando Garcia and OLG administrator John Martinez hosted an official from a Dallas organization considering a grant to Our Lady's and its broad mission.

So the whirlwind of giving and heroics around this new church continues, despite the heinous 287 deportation program and the support of the mayor, congressman and sheriff behind it.

Read here for more exciting updates, as the people of light battle the descending darkness in Nashville.

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