A house to honor Pope Francis

Volunteers carry a framed wall for the Habitat for Humanity house in Tacoma that is being sponsored by 25 Pierce County parishes and missions in honor of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Photo: Stephen Brashear Volunteers carry a framed wall for the Habitat for Humanity house in Tacoma that is being sponsored by 25 Pierce County parishes and missions in honor of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Photo: Stephen Brashear

TACOMA – Inspired by the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the 25 parishes and missions of the archdiocese’s Pierce Deanery are sponsoring a Habitat for Humanity home in honor of Pope Francis.

It’s the first time a “Catholic conglomeration” has sponsored a Habitat home in Pierce County, “which is really exciting,” said Maureen Fife, CEO/executive director of Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity, and a member of Tacoma’s St. Charles Borromeo Parish.

Construction is already under way on the tentatively named “Pope Francis Jubilee House” in The Woods at Golden Given, after a “wall raising” and blessing ceremony were held June 11.

Kathy Weber of St. Patrick Parish in Tacoma was among volunteers from various parishes who came out to swing a hammer that day. “The fact that it was Pope Francis was definitely appealing,” said Weber, who saw an announcement about the project in her parish bulletin. “It’s a special year, the Year of Mercy,” she said. “This is a way to honor that.”

Sharing the load

The idea for the multi-parish project began with Dan Fannin, a member of St. John Bosco Parish in Lakewood who has been involved with Habitat for several years. Fannin joined fellow parishioners in sponsoring and building a Habitat home in 2012 to honor their longtime pastor, Father Oliver Lee Hightower (who died in 2013).

So, Fannin thought, why couldn’t all the parishes of the deanery come together to build a home honoring the pope?

Idea in hand, Fannin proposed it to Father Nick Wichert, pastor of Visitation and Holy Rosary parishes in Tacoma and dean of the Pierce Deanery.

“He seems like one of those guys who doesn’t take no for an answer,” Father Wichert joked. He invited Fannin to come to the next deanery meeting — just two days later — to pitch the concept.

Fannin explained that the parishes would share the $65,000 needed to sponsor a house (these “sticks and bricks” construction funds can be raised over a three-year period) and parishes would be encouraged to recruit volunteers to work on the home.

“The commitment I made to them was I will not add to their work and I will do everything for them,” Fannin said.

“There was just a little bit of discussion about it, and then … people just thought, ‘Let’s do it,’” Father Wichert said. “So we took a vote and it passed immediately.”

The feeling was “it would be easy to get the parishioners behind this,” particularly during the Year of Mercy, said Father Michael Radermacher, pastor of All Saints Parish in Puyallup and St. Martin of Tours Parish in Fife.

Determining each parish’s share of the sponsorship was as easy as plugging the $65,000 figure into an existing cost-sharing formula for deanery expenses, Father Wichert explained.

Fannin said he hopes the project inspires other deaneries to sponsor their own Habitat houses (see box).

Helping hands

Besides the financial commitment, parishes and parishioners can help in a variety of ways: organizing, doing hands-on site work (minimum age: 16), providing food for the workers, handling social media updates, or praying for the project’s success. Organizers are seeking someone to create a digital scrapbook of the project, with the hope of sending a copy to Pope Francis.

They’re also seeking a better name for the home; the person who comes up with the winning name will help dedicate a plaque for the house. It’s hoped the home can be dedicated around Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

The family chosen by Habitat to move into the affordable home must be able to make mortgage payments and be willing to put in “sweat equity” hours on the project.

Already, they will be helped by more than three-dozen volunteers from Holy Disciples Parish in Puyallup and its mission, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Eatonville, said parishioner Lenny Kraus, who is leading the effort for the two communities. They are slated to work on the home’s second-floor framing June 22-25, he said.

“We actually went and did a little pitch in front of everybody at all the Masses at both parishes,” Kraus said. “It paid off.” It didn’t hurt that Father Matthew O’Leary, pastor of both churches, is a “very strong proponent of community service and community involvement,” Kraus said.

And then there’s the Pope Francis angle.

“Because he’s such a great man, there’s more emphasis on people being willing to do it because of everything he’s done for the world,” Kraus said.

Sponsor a Habitat home

The cost of sponsoring a Habitat for Humanity house may vary among the 14 affiliates in Western Washington, according to Maureen Fife, CEO/executive director of Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity.

For instance, Tacoma/Pierce County sponsorship costs $65,000 (the out-of-pocket amount for construction materials), but other affiliates may include the cost of the finished lot or some project management costs, Fife explained.

Parishes or deaneries can learn more about sponsoring a Habitat house by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contacting their nearest Habitat affiliate.

 

Jean Parietti

Jean Parietti is the local news editor for NWCatholic.org and features editor for Northwest Catholic magazine. You can reach her at jean.parietti@seattlearch.org.