Sunday, October 19, 2008
Invest in a miracle and a leader in faith by action; Our Lady's gets whopping $150,000 grant!
Behold the miracle worker who leads by faith in action not words.
Father Joe Pat Breen, pastor of St. Edward Catholic Church in south Nashville, is financially responsible for two churches. Most pastors have trouble with one as far as time and money. But led by his deep faith and his commitment to his family's immigrant roots, Father Breen has pushed forward and continues to make a miracle happen at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Nashville.
Father Breen recently received word of a $150,000 grant from the Catholic Extension Society to support Our Lady's and pay off its $400,000 debt owed the Nsshville diocese. That's the biggest gift so far in a multi-campaign Father personally initiated to find a faith home for the growing Hispanic presence in Nashville.
Through his friendship with Baptist pastor Paul Durham, Breen secured the massive building and property on Nolensville Road of the former Radnor Baptist Church for $1.5 million; it's worth is $5.1 million. That was the first part of the miracle.
Then Breen went to monied Catholic believers in Nashville, and got three to put up $1.5 million temporarily to secure the building and property. Then he went out fundraising while still solely being responsible for his own parish of more than 1,200 families.
He raised more than $900,000. He parishioners kept giving $3,000 a week to add on to their incredible gift then of more than $300,000.
I was blessed to personally raise $145,000 -- with two amazing gifts from Williamson County churches. St. Phillip's in Franklin and the great Father Kirk gave $100,000. Holy Family in Brentwood and the great Father Ed Alberts gave $25,000. The good sisters who run the Dominican Campus in Nashville also gave a wonderful gift. My marvelous late mother in Oklahoma City gave $10,000 to lead the beginning of my family's giving that continues each week.
And a little girl named Elizabeth gave $7 from her piggy bank so her Hispanic Catholic friend would have a place to go to church. Incredible. Another part of the miracle was complete.
MAKING THE CASE OF FAITH
Father graciously allowed me to be a part of the presentation made to an official from the Catholic Extension Society who visited three months ago. I explained what Our Lady's meant socially and politically for people who looked like me and my grandparents. And beyond a place of worship, I noted my hope of working with Vanderbilt University officials in bringing a nursing program to the church to start moving Hispanic middle school girls into professional caregiving careers before tradition teaches they should drop out of school and support the family.
Among Hispanics, who have the highest dropout rate in the nation, females face the worst education fate.
This move to work with Vanderbilt would not be to solely help Hispanics. It would be to help all of Nashville, as the nursing shortage reaches critical extremes next decade. We need to take this new brain power and put it to full use for all to benefit from. One such young lady who would be part of this movement would be 11-year-old Jennifer, an American of parents from El Salvador.
We met and talked yesterday of her dreams of being a scientist as a career. She has the grades and desire. All that we need to do is plug her into that great system called the American Dream and allow her a career to move her up the economic ladder.
Now wouldn't such a program at Our Lady's be a miracle, particularly with Vanderbilt locating so close to the Hispanic community in 100 Oaks Mall with a brave, new extension facility of top health care services to a seven-state area?
Well, that's what I outlined for the official from the Catholic Extension Society. And I was proud to walk behind Our Lady's pastor Father Fernando Garcia and administrator Hector Martinez as they took the official around the OLG building with its three stories of space awaiting new dreams, vision and community support.
SUPPORT FROM AFAR
One part of the miracle for Father Breen or the lesser types like me hanging around has been the breadth of that the community. I've noted the local gifts above. But the Catholic Extension Society is located in Chicago. An application to it for help was made from St. Edward.
It mission statement says: The Catholic Church Extension Society exists to sustain and extend the Catholic Faith in poor and remote mission areas of the United States where diocesan resources are insufficient. Catholic Extension builds national awareness and raises funds for the Church's needs in these communities so as to enable the essential mission of Catholic evangelization.
The only negative part of this miracle has been the lack of direct local giving from the diocese of Nashville and three prominent Catholic churches: The Cathedral, St. Henry's and St. Matthew's. I personally contacted each for support based on Pope Benedict's visit to America and his call to each of us to help these immigrant Catholic believers new to our country.
Individual parishioners and diocese members gave. And initially, the churches responded positively, then didn't respond later when asked for an official answer and after being given more extensive financial information and background by me on OLG's future.
The diocese simply acted as a lender, not even giving a gift of support. Catholic Charities has taken up space in OLG to provide services and to pay rent. But that does not compare to the kind of gift from veritable strangers, like those at the Catholic Extension Society.
One couple who attend The Cathedral asked the pastor there if a second collection could be taken for Our Lady's. The priest answered "no", the couple said, because he did not believe in second collections. The couple, however, gave $1,000 of their own money. So they own a piece of the ongoing miracle that is Our Lady's.
TESTIFYING TO THE TRUTH
I make these observations above from my personal experiences and as an observer and listener. These are NOT Father Breen's opinions -- only MINE. For my part, my family and I remain physically and financially involved at Our Lady's and will so for the rest of our lives here. Even from a negative, one can learn and pray harder and then seek allies in other areas.
I believe some important people in the diocese wanted to see Father Breen fail in taking on this initiative that has produced a miracle. He is outspoken when it comes to the truth, particularly when it comes to the need for married priests. He also is outspoken for the poor and the most vulnerable. And this nation's bishops are mostly bureaucrats, not spiritual leaders.
Unfortunately, he was wrongly used by so-called Hispanic advocates in trying to keep the EnglishFirst referendum off the Nov. 4 ballot. At their direction, Father Breen spoke to the Metro Election Commission in support of knocking the referendum off the ballot.
Advocates and other backroom politicos foolishly believed Councilman Eric Crafton would simply go away. He didn't. Now it is on the ballot for Jan. 22 and will surely pass. These so-called advocates should have kept their foolish strategies away from Father Breen. He knows more about politics and progress than all of them combined. Our Lady's is proof of that.
For those who have participated in this miracle, please know your money has been used wisely in nurturing this miracle to produce new ones. It is Father Breen's dream to raise enough money to retire the debt and then allow the parish to progress on its own. That follows the wisdom of teaching a person how to fish instead of giving them a fish everyday. He hopes to have a big party early next year to celebrate retiring the debt. And Our Lady's will gain official diocesan recognition as its own parish.
JOIN THE MIRACLE
You can be a part of this miracle and see a bounty of blessings in return from new health care workers to care for you in the hospital and bigger taxpayers to help support Nashville's needs. You'll also be joining with fellow believers in a higher power above and a great power on earth of the American Dream. The parishioners at Our Lady's already are taking over in their own gifts and works at their church.
Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to contribute, and I'll give you directions to assign your name and faith to a miracle marvelous to behold. Or go to www.stedward.org.
The miracle worker and the miracle still need our support of faith through action and continued prayers.