There is this ministry in Austin, called “Mobile Loaves and Fishes”. They feed the homeless from trucks that go to the homeless. The homeless do not go to them. (They are also the founders of “Community First”, a community on the eastern boundary of our parish devoted to providing homes and dignity to the homeless.
Mobile Loaves and Fishes began in my home parish about 20 years ago. Today they have over 15 thousand volunteers in Austin and many other cities and states.
One of the activities sponsored by Mobile Loaves and Fishes is something called the “Street Retreat”. I was on the first Street Retreat about 20 years ago. Fifteen of us spent three days on the streets of Austin like the homeless. The rule for us was like the Gospel,
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick—
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
We were to leave at home our cell phones, our pagers, our credit cards, everything, and live on the streets, like our homeless brothers and sisters. Today’s Gospel was one of the inspirations for our Street Retreat.
It was an incredible experience that changed my life and my approach to ministry. Today, every class of diocesan candidates to be ordained as permanent deacons must go on a street retreat. That experience changes our hearts for more sincere, more practical ministry.
Today I want to talk about something else: The future of our parish and Diocese. We need to talk about this.
The Diocese is launching a Capital Campaign to raise $85 million dollars over 5 years. Our parish will participate with a contribution to the Campaign of approximately $1 million dollars, over 5 years. The campaign rules will be to give 70% to the Diocese, while 30% will be returned to the parish.
The objective for our parish is to prepare to construct a larger church that will seat 1,000 people. Currently we can only seat 490 people. If you have spent any time around the parish on Sundays, you know that we have three Masses each Sunday that have 700 to 900 in attendance. We must expand our church.
We will also have to provide parking for at least 500 cars on our property. The current cost estimate for our project is around $5.0 million for the church and parking. The timetable calls for planning and raising capital now to get city permits by 2020. We would most likely not begin breaking ground until the first quarter of 2020. This is just a brief description. We will discuss it further in the near future.
I believe we can raise the money. The Diocese will help us finance the new church with grants and loans, if we raise as much as possible. We can do this. But everyone must be committed. We need to know we can count on every parishioner’s support.
Our first priority is to keep the parish going by keeping our commitments. Each year we are asked as parishioners to make a written pledge for our tithe to the parish. You may recall our program, known as “You Can Count on Me”. Our pledge system has worked well, as our experience has shown. We are almost 80% ahead of total first collections compared to when we began in 2012.
We must re-affirm the parish mission, and that all our programs continue. The capital campaign pledges must not be paid by reducing our annual pledge to the parish.
Our second priority must be to re-affirm our commitment to the Diocese with the CSA, the Catholic Services Appeal. The Diocese mission must continue.
So, we face three priorities.
- Number 1:Keep your promises to the parish. Make certain you continue to pay your weekly tithe, your first fruits of your work each week.
- Number 2:Keep you commitment to the Diocese with payments to the Catholic Services Appeal.
- Number 3:Make your Capital Campaign pledge – – ONLY if you have done Number 1 and Number 2.
We can do this. Some large churches in poor neighborhoods have been built by parishioners who pledged just a dollar a day.
Recall that one of our recommendations has been to look at your work and wealth as gifts from God. If you believe you have been blessed by God, and that on Friday evening you will still have your job that you started on Monday, why don’t you at least promise God your first hour of work each week? If you were to give to God your salary for four hours of work each week, that would be roughly equivalent to a full tithe of ten percent.
A suggestion that I would make would be to plan two hours wages per week for the parish, one hour of wages for the Diocese and one hour of wages for the Capital Campaign and the new Church. The Church does not recommend you plan to share more than 10% of your income. I am not asking for your pledge today. I am here to ask you to pray and discern your commitments, and the priorities of your commitments: Parish first, Diocese second, Capital Campaign third.
Also, we will continue to commit the profits from our Fiesta toward a new Church. We have already saved over $360,000 from the past six Fiestas. If we continue to dedicate our Fiesta funds to the new church, over the next five years we will have raised approximately $1.0 million in just Fiesta funds. Each year we will be saying, “Enjoy the Fiesta! Raise the Church!”
We can build a new $5.0 million church over five years. We have to get started. But we must make certain we keep our commitments to the parish and diocese as well. This is how we will build up God’s church.
Today I am not launching the Capital Campaign. Today I am asking each of you to re-affirm your priorities, to support the Parish first with your first collection. We will launch the Capital Campaign this Fall. You will hear more about that later. However, if we do not re-affirm this priority to support the parish week to week, month to month, we will not have a successful Capital Campaign.
Please join with me and pray for a strong commitment to our church and parish. God has blessed us. God will continue to bless us.