A couple of days ago, my wife told me about a beautiful spontaneous effort by our fellow parishioners to help our parish. A couple of weeks ago just after a Sunday Mass, some people saw bits of the church ceiling falling onto the nearly emptied pews. The building is 100 years old and is a fixture in our neighborhood. Concerned for everyone’s safety, the pastor closed the church while the problem was investigated. Fortunately, about ten years ago, the parish had built an adjoining building which serves as meeting space for the various parish ministries and group activities, and the room can be partitioned into smaller meeting rooms and a central chapel. On Sundays the room is opened completely for Masses, and that building is now accommodating all Masses until the Church can be repaired.
This Sunday we learned that the church cannot receive any insurance money because the problems with the roof are age-related. An engineer is presently investigating how extensive the problem is, but it seems the whole roof and beams are involved, and will cost a lot of money to fix.
My wife told me that she is a member of a neighborhood group on Facebook. Someone she doesn’t know personally had asked what was going on with the church. My wife wrote what she knew. The response was immediate. Others chimed in how they were baptized there, had their weddings there, how their children were also baptized and wedded, and how the church was the site of many funerals for their families. The first one to ask then mentioned that people needed to do some fund raising to help with the costs. Then she came back and announced that she was able to set a date for later in the month in a donated hall. Then another came on to say that they had secured the music. This all happened within minutes. This all happened without the pastor ever asking any of these people to help defray the costs. My wife called the pastor and told him what was going on. She told me that he was a bit stunned at first. Then he was concerned because he didn’t know yet how much it would cost to fix, whether it would be $50,000 or $500,000. She scolded him politely, telling him that people were willing to raise what they could now and he should just accept it and apply it to the problem.
I sat and listened to this recount of what had happened. It struck me as a really beautiful thing that had happened on its own by people who love the church, the parish and its place in their lives, and spontaneously, and how it seemed to catch fire so quickly and spread.
“Well, that’s a phone call he never expected to get today,” I said. “What an awesome thing to hear about.”
I’m still marveling at this. Last night, she asked me how long I thought it would take for the pastor to call her back because she had left a message. He’ll probably get back to you within a day. Figuring it was about the Facebook fund raiser plan, I asked why she called him.
“I spoke with a few others and we thought the parish could host a dance for the seventh and eight grade catechists and we could raise some more money for the roof. We can get the music donated and we can use the school gym. I wanted to talk to him and ask him if we could do that. The head of the catechism program said she thought it was a great idea.”
It’s probably unlikely, but I had the thought that the pastor might not have to ask people to contribute at any collection at Mass for the roof. I just have a feeling that this is only just beginning and might lead to a variety of these events before the dust settles. Who’s to say that lapsed Catholics in the parish don’t decide to give a few bucks and then decide to come back because of the broken roof? I know, I’m letting my imagination get carried away.
Then, this morning I watched a Michael Voris ChurchMilitant.tv Vortex video about a similar phenomenon. A week ago or so, a pastor of a parish in San Francisco announced that he was changing the altar server policy and henceforth the parish would have exclusively altar boys. He had explained his decision as based on the fact that vocations to the priesthood are often first prompted by being an altar boy and he wants to encourage vocations. He took immediate and nasty blowback from different quarters, in and outside of the Church and from all around the country. I read some of the articles and I read that those who were publicly threatening to leave his church weren’t even part of the parish. There were apparently dire threats made about withholding money from collections and the pastor would soon feel the financial hit for his “mean” decision.
Michael Voris reported the story last week and then decided to set up a donation link on his site for viewers to donate money directly for the pastor and the church. Today’s program recounted that $25,000 was raised in a day and that nearly $50,000 has been raised in the past week. He interviewed the pastor who said he had just begun a classical choir and someone had asked where the money for the program would come from. He said that God would provide, and then a few days later he learned of the money raised through the spontaneous effort of ChurchMilitant.tv.
That is the Catholic use of the internet in a direct way to support specific parishes, outside of the official diocesan channels, and without a request from the individual pastors. It just goes to show in another way the good that can arise from one or a few raising a voice on the internet.