Archdiocese, Houston Habitat for Humanity unite to build Pope Francis House

October 13, 2015

HOUSTON — An anonymous donor challenged Houston Habitat for Humanity to build a house in honor of Pope Francis, prompting a partnership with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston that builds on faith.

More than 300 Catholic young adults ages 18 to 35 from around the Archdiocese have been helping construct the Pope Francis House over the course of six weeks.

"When Houston Habitat for Humanity approached the Archdiocese with the Pope Francis House, we knew this was the perfect project for young adults," said Gabriela Karaszewski, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Young Adults and Campus Ministry. "Young adults are always ready and willing to serve. It gives a meaning of what it is to be a Christian."

The Pope Francis House has three goals: to honor Pope Francis for his commitment to social justice and reinvigorating the Catholic Church; to provide a unifying, celebratory opportunity for both Catholic and non-Catholic volunteers to work towards a common goal; and to further Habitat's mission of building and preserving homes. 

Construction began Sept. 19 and continues each Saturday through Oct. 17, including Sept. 26, the weekend Pope Francis visited the United States. Primarily Catholic young adults from some 25 groups in the Archdiocese, the volunteers represent a rapidly growing Houston demographic. Two of these groups helping build the Pope Francis House include the Houston chapter of the Young Catholic Professionals and Encuentros de Promocion Juvenil. Volunteers will be working in two shifts, 25 in the morning and 25 in the afternoon. 

Rocio Jerez, with Encuentros de Promocion Juvenil, finds Pope Francis's message to young adults "powerful" and "inspirational." She believes "that Pope Francis's message for reaching out to others means everything to us as young adults. If we follow his message, we are being obedient and merciful in God's eyes." 

That message also resonates with the Young Catholic Professionals, according to Kyle Smith with the Young Catholic Professionals of Houston. "When we put our faith into action, we inevitably grow in love for our neighbor because we make a true gift of ourselves," Smith said. "Pope Francis has always challenged young adults to share their gifts and talents, to never settle for mediocrity and to walk on a path of holiness." 

"The pope wants the whole world to be merciful, and despite our material wealth in America and despite the construction boom in Houston, there are families that are still without a home," Karaszewski said. "We don't have to leave the country or our state to help; we can just look at our own backyard to help."

All families that benefit from a Houston Habitat for Humanity house, including the one that will live in the Pope Francis House, complete financial education classes and contribute 100 sweat equity hours to a project's build. The anonymous donor's gift of $60,000 to Houston Habitat for Humanity was matched by St. Michael Catholic Church, Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church and St. John Vianney Catholic Church, as well as other generous individuals.

"When we were approached with this challenge to raise the amount to match the funds, we were thrilled," said Denise Bates, communications director for Houston Habitat for Humanity. "Houston Habitat's participation in the Pope Francis House Build is a great opportunity for us to collaborate with one of many diverse groups in Houston," noting the "very large" Catholic community in the Galveston-Houston area. "We immediately thought of involving the Catholic community and the response was very strong."

A house dedication and blessing is set for Dec. 19. The anonymous donor which helped fund the Houston Pope Francis House, located in historic Settegast in northeast Houston, has funded several projects across the country and in Texas, including El Paso and Corpus Christi. 

To learn more about the Pope Francis House or to find out how you can help build the Pope Francis House, visit Houston Habitat for Humanity at or call 713-671-9993.