Pope Francis house will finally be a home

Categories: Around the Diocese


Bishop Donald Kettler said a blessing over the new home of Mohamed Elmi and his wife Ubah Mohamed during a blessing and dedication open house event Dec. 3. The family will move into the Habitat for Humanity house, built in honor of Pope Francis, at the end of the month.

Story and photos by Dianne Towalski
The Visitor

Well-wishers filled every corner of the Habitat for Humanity house built in honor of Pope Francis for the blessing and dedication of the St. Cloud home Dec. 3.

Mohamed Elmi and his wife Ubah Mohamed will move their family of 10, which includes their seven children and Ubah’s mother, into the six-bedroom home at the end of the month.

The family has been living in two separate apartments for some time.

“We are so happy to be able to live together now,” said Fatuma, 13, who spoke for the family and thanked those gathered for their involvement in building their new home.


8-year-old Abdullahi hugs a quilt given to him by members of St. Wendelin Parish in Luxemburg, who presented each family member with their own handmade quilt.

Bishop Donald Kettler said a prayer of blessing over the home, the family and all who will visit. Sheikh Hasan Yusuf from the Islamic Center in St. Cloud also prayed a blessing.

Attending the event were volunteers who helped build the house, donors, Habitat for Humanity staff and even some curious neighbors who wanted to meet the family.

One of those attending was Hildegard Rohe, who leads a quilting group at St. Wendelin Parish in Luxemburg. The group created unique, handmade quilts for each member of the family.

Rohe and her husband Othmar, along with a group of helpers, have been making quilts for local charities for 12 years. When the parish’s Christian women’s group asked if she would be interested in working on the Pope Francis Build project, she jumped at the chance, she said.

“It was a great feeling. You could just see how appreciative they were,” she said. “There are no words for it.”

Earlier this year, an anonymous donor came forward with a $60,000 cash contribution toward the $100,000 project — one of 58 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.

In addition to donations from Catholic parishes, other churches and individuals, the family has contributed many hours of work on their new home. Family members who are 18 or older are required to put in “sweat equity” hours on all Habitat projects.

Mohamed and Ubah each completed 200 hours; their son Khalid, 18, and Ubah’s mother, Fatuma, completed 100 hours each. Their son Khalil, 16, helped with a lot of hours, too.

They can work hours at the construction sites, at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and at other non-profits, schools or places of worship, according to Angie Thaxton, family services director for Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity. They also can have friends and family help complete some of the hours.

“I know that this family worked very hard to achieve their sweat equity hours, in addition to both working and caring for a large family,” said Kris Lehman, faith relations coordinator for Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity.

Mohamed and Ubah also attended 15 hours of homeowner education classes covering topics like Habitat 101, money management, mortgages, home maintenance and safety, Thaxton said.

“I think the long process of becoming homeowners through Habitat prepares our families to be patient, accountable and responsible homeowners,” said Lehman. “And those are characteristics of being a good neighbor.”