Building Habitat house also builds community, volunteers say

Categories: Around the Diocese

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Dave Stang, a local sales representative for Catholic United Financial and a member of St. Nicholas Parish in St. Nicholas, measures a doorway before starting to put up siding on Habitat for Humanity’s Pope Francis Build July 24. (Dianne Towalski / The Visitor)

Catholic community, others pitch in to construct home in honor of Pope Francis

By Dianne Towalski
The Visitor

Three months into a Habitat for Humanity project in St. Cloud in honor of Pope Francis, the work is shaping up nicely.

The Catholic community has come together in force to help build a home for a local Somali family to move into this fall.

Mohamed Elmi and his wife, Ubah Mohamed, will finally be able to live together with their seven children under one roof. They have been living in two separate apartments since moving to St. Cloud from Chicago to be closer to relatives and friends. Ubah’s mother also will be able to live with them.

“We are happy to be buying a home from Habitat and thank everyone who had a part in it,” said Mohamed, who has helped to construct the home.

Earlier this year, an anonymous donor came forward with a $60,000 cash contribution toward the $100,000 project — one of several like it around the country — with a request to build the home in honor of Pope Francis in recognition of his commitment to social justice and efforts to reinvigorate the Catholic Church. The donor challenged the local faith community to collectively contribute its time, talent and treasure toward the home’s construction.

Many people have answered the challenge. About $20,000 must still be raised toward the $40,000 needed to complete the project. (See box above for ways to help.)

“Our Habitat ministry is all about gathering community and building relationships,” said Kris Lehman, faith relations coordinator for Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity. “The Pope Francis project is a beautiful reflection of that. More than 20 churches of various denominations have come together to provide funding, volunteers and prayer.”

Bishop Donald Kettler has given his support to the project.habitat help

“Habitat works with the communtity to help people that couldn’t otherwise afford to own their own home,” Bishop Kettler said. “That goes along with what Pope Francis has been saying about helping the poor and strengthening families.”

Supporting others

A group of eight volunteers from Catholic United Financial worked in the heat and humidity July 24 putting up siding. Doors were installed the day before, making the structure look more like a home.

“The work is fun and we’re doing it for all the reasons we should do things,” said Mike Ahles, Catholic United Financial’s senior vice president and a volunteer on the site.

“We say at Catholic United that we don’t do things because they’re Catholic, we do things because we’re Catholic. That is this type of effort. It’s not a Catholic family that is going to get the home, but it’s the Catholic community supporting a member of our community. That’s the brotherhood and the sisterhood of being Catholic. We do things for each other, and this is just further evidence of that, for us.”

Catholic United Financial, headquartered in St. Paul, also made a $5,000 donation to the initiative. It’s the first time the organization has donated to a Habitat project.

Deacon Jim Trout, who coordinated volunteers from the parishes of St. Michael in St. Cloud and St. Joseph in Waite Park, worked on the home with fellow parishioners July 10. He sees it as a great opportunity to serve.

“As Catholics we are about worship. We are about prayer. But we’re also about service,” he said. “We need to do things beyond the walls of our parish. I think that’s an essential element in a vibrant parish — to be mindful of the needs outside of itself.”

As a deacon, he has been exploring new ways to serve the community outside of assisting at the altar and preaching.

“I’ve been trying to figure out that other piece, that physical service and reaching out to those who are on the edge, and I think this Habitat project is an excellent way to connect the meaning of service to my role as a deacon in the parish,” he said.

Deacon Trout also says that this effort  has brought people together in a new and exciting way.

“I really believe that when you rub elbows with somebody in a positive way, when where you’re working together for a common goal that you both agree with, when this is something that you really want to do, bonds are created,” Deacon Trout said. “There’s a different kind of communication that happens and a connection that’s made, and I think Habitat is in a unique position to help bridge our communities.”

Lehman is grateful for the support of people like Deacon Trout and Catholic United Financial.

“Our community of faith has put God’s love into action by building this home and making affordable homeownership possible for this family.”