2015-04-17 22.36.09-2

habitat Habitat for Humanity volunteers Anna Iburg, 16, left, from Sacred Heart Parish in Sauk Rapids and Ben and Adam Lepinski, both 15, from St. John the Baptist in Collegeville work to clear cans and garbage from a shed at 157 24th Ave. S. in St. Cloud April 18. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor


By Dianne Towalski
The Visitor

Volunteers gathered in St. Cloud April 18 to start work on what will soon be a very special home for a local family.

The new home is being built in honor of Pope Francis through Habitat For Humanity, thanks to an anonymous donor.

The group, comprised of youth and families from Sacred Heart Parish in Sauk Rapids and St. John the Baptist Parish in Collegeville, worked to clear furniture and garbage from the house that is currently on the property so it can be torn down. The new home, at 157 24th Ave., S., will be built on the existing foundation.

The project is part of Habitat for Humanity’s Apostles Build program, which is designed to encourage members of different churches to combine their collective efforts to build a home.

“We have a donor that is particularly delighted with what Pope Francis has been doing and saying, both for the church and for our world,” said Bruce Johnson, executive director of Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity. “He offered a very significant cash donation if we were to build a home in honor of Pope Francis, and he had a couple of ideas about how the Catholic community would be engaged.”

Getting Catholics involved

As a Christian ministry, Habitat for Humanity already has support from many parishes in the area but wanted to take it to a new level with this project, Johnson said. The donor also wanted to make a special effort to get Catholic youth involved.

After talking with Bishop Donald Kettler and getting his support, the organization assembled a group of Catholic leaders from around St. Cloud for brainstorming sessions.

The first session was March 19, the feast of St. Joseph. Maureen Otremba, a member of Sacred Heart in Sauk Rapids, provided a statue of St. Joseph for the meeting table.

“I just thought that if there are Catholics involved [in this project], we should ask for his intercession,” she said.

It seemed appropriate, she said, because St. Joseph is the patron of carpenters, workers and those looking to buy or sell a house.

The group assisted in making connections with parishes and helped identify people who would be most interested in the project, Johnson said. “The best thing [parishes] could do is come out and pray with us … and just get a feel for what’s going on,” he said.

St. Francis Xavier Parish in Sartell is one of several parishes already on board with the project.

“We will have a group of volunteers who will work on the house or serve lunch for the workers, and we’ve pledged $1,500 toward the financial needs of the building,” said Carol Hart, a member of the parish social justice concerns committee.

The family that will make the Pope Francis House their home will work alongside volunteers to build it. Each adult who will live there must complete 200 hours of “sweat equity,” according to Habitat’s website, although there are some other ways they can volunteer if they are not able to help with building.

Focus on dignity

Pope Francis talks often about every person’s God-given human dignity, Johnson said.

“The unifying work that the pope is doing both in the Catholic Church and the world expresses an interest in dignity, and dignity is one of our core values,” he said.

“This is not about handing a family something, it’s about empowering them to be part of the community as homeowners,” he added. “We don’t just give them a home. We don’t just give them a handout. We work with them to build that home. We teach them some things, they teach us some things.

They transform our life, we transform theirs.”

Hart, who has volunteered with Habitat before, looks forward to working with the people who will eventually live in the house.

“It is so wonderful to meet and work with the family during the construction and to celebrate with them at the home dedication,” she said.

Since the foundation is already there, a “wall bashing” ceremony, instead of a groundbreaking, is scheduled for April 24.

“We want to get everybody together, first to know about what’s going on, know where the property is, get to know each other and pray over the property,” Johnson said.

Bishop Kettler will bless the project during the wall-raising at the building site at noon on June 16. A dedication will be held when the home is finished.