TACOMA – Dedicating a house built in honor of Pope Francis seemed a fitting finale to his Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“This [is] very tangible proof of open hearts and love for your brothers and sisters, and really being the hands and feet of Christ,” Maureen Fife, CEO/executive director of Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity, told those gathered for the Nov. 19 dedication.
“Pope Francis’ Jubilee House” is the work of the 25 parishes and missions of the archdiocese’s Pierce Deanery. Earlier this year, they joined forces and finances to sponsor a house in Habitat’s The Woods at Golden Given neighborhood, located in the Midland area outside Tacoma.
Building a home for someone you don’t yet know is “the kind of love and mercy I think that Pope Francis was urging us to have,” said Fife, a member of Tacoma’s St. Charles Borromeo Parish.
Father Burns led a group prayer at the Pope Francis' Jubilee House dedication. Photo: Stephen Brashear
Built on a firm foundation
The dedication ceremony began with Father Jerry Burns, pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Sumner and dean of the Pierce Deanery, reading Matthew 7:24-28 (the parable of the wise man building his house on rock and the foolish man building his house on sand).
“The good news here is that this house is built on a firm foundation,” Father Burns told those gathered.
He then led the group in prayer, thanking God for the generosity of all the parishes that came together in faith to build the house. He asked for the intercession of St. John Paul II for the safety of the family who will live in the home, and to keep their neighborhood free of drugs and violence. “May it be a place of peace where parents can grow and raise their children in God’s ways,” Father Burns prayed. After blessing the front door of the two-story home, Father Burns led the group inside, where he blessed each room.
Although the home is finished, Habitat is still seeking a family to purchase the property.
“We’d love to get a deanery parish family in here,” said Dan Fannin, a member of St. John Bosco Parish in Lakewood, who spearheaded the deanery project. Applicants for the home must meet specific criteria, which include qualifying for a $165,000 mortgage (Habitat provides $40,000 for the down payment), Fannin said.
At the dedication were, from left, Father Michael Radermacher, pastor of All Saints Parish in Puyallup; Jesuit Father Isidro Lépez, chaplain of the Pierce Deanery Hospital Ministry; Father Jerry Burns; and Dan Fannin of St. John Bosco Parish, who spearheaded the project. Photo: Stephen Brashear
Volunteers of all ages
For their part, the Pierce Deanery parishes and missions are sharing the $65,000 in construction costs for the home (the funds can be raised over three years). They recruited more than 150 volunteers of all ages to help build the home and assist in other ways, such as providing lunch for the work crews. Students from Bellarmine Preparatory School and youth from St. Ann and St. Patrick parishes in Tacoma joined the effort.
The many volunteers included Barney Koenig, 80, a St. John Bosco parishioner who attended the dedication. “I think he’s the oldest volunteer,” Fannin said. “He wears me out. You ought to see him work.”
During the home’s construction, Koenig climbed scaffolding to help install roof sheathing, something he had never done before, a process he deemed “interesting” and “enjoyable.” He also did some painting, but the most difficult job, Koenig said, was working on his knees to clean floor tiles before they were grouted. “Good thing they have knee pads,” he added with a laugh.
The house, started in June, was dedicated just before the Year of Mercy concluded Nov. 20. “So we made it,” Fannin told the gathering. In honor of Pope Francis and the Jubilee Year of Mercy, a bronze plaque (purchased by St. Rita of Cascia Parish in Tacoma) will be attached to the home’s foundation.
This is the first time a group of Catholic parishes has sponsored a Habitat home in Pierce County, Fife said. She gave the credit to Fannin for getting the project rolling: “It was the sparks from Dan that lit the fuse on this whole thing,” Fife said.
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