Financial aid helps rebuild physical, spiritual life of poor parishes in the Archdiocese

December 24, 2019

Father Abelardo Cobos, pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church in Houston, said the Aid to Poor Parishes Fund allowed his parish to recently update the air conditioning and heating units, and replace the roofs on the 75-year-old parish hall and school buildings that were also seriously damaged during Hurricane Harvey. (Photo courtesy of the Development Office)

HOUSTON — By continually doing good works and generously sharing resources with those in need, the faithful in the Archdiocese assist thousands of people each year, including those served by poorer parishes and schools that lack funding for significant building and property repair.

This financial assistance is provided through the Aid to Poor Parishes Fund, which was founded in 1968 by Bishop John L. Morkovsky. He tasked then Father Joseph A. Fiorenza, now Archbishop Emeritus, and a committee of priests and laypeople to find a way to regularly help support the poorer parishes and schools in the Archdiocese.

“They created the Aid to Poor Parishes program, which asked all pastors to donate 10% to this effort from their Thanksgiving and Christmas collections and tithing from their offertory,” said Laurel Keller, associate director of the Development Office of the Archdiocese. “Archbishop Fiorenza later gave strong support to the program when he initiated a tax on building parish projects and the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF) rebate program. Parishes that exceed their DSF goal receive half the surpassed amount, and the other half goes to the Aid to Poor Parishes Fund.”

Father Noel Effiong, MSP, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, said the Aid to Poor Parishes Fund helped his parish make major repairs to buildings damaged during Hurricane Harvey in Aug. 2017.

This included the priest rectory, which allows the clergy and staff to be more readily available to serve, as well as repairs to the community center building.

He said this facility has been instrumental in the availability of religious education programs and other services and activities that help maintain the social and cultural life of the parish. It also currently serves as the worship space for Mass and celebrating the Sacraments, because the old church has been condemned due to the extensive damage it received during the storm.

Father Effiong believes the 2019 DSF campaign theme, “Do not neglect to share what you have,” challenges all followers of Christ to share and to give, regardless of their personal financial standing.

“There is joy in giving rather than receiving, as the sacred Scripture reminds us in Act 20:35,” said Father Effiong. “Moreover, our parish stands in need of help, so in a certain sense, we are helping ourselves in giving and supporting the DSF ourselves as much as we can. We have benefited from the fund in the past and will still depend on it for an unforeseeable future of our parish existence.”

Father Abelardo Cobos, pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, said the Aid to Poor Parishes Fund allowed his parish to recently update the air conditioning and heating units. They also replaced the roofs on the 75-year-old parish hall and school buildings that were also severely damaged during Hurricane Harvey.

“We are profoundly grateful to the Archdiocese, which helped us repair and remodel our church so that we could use the worship space again after a year-and-a-half of Masses held in our parish hall,” said Father Cobos. “It is important for everyone to give to the DSF to help poor parishes in need and all the important programs found throughout the Archdiocese. Without this funding, I don’t think our church would be able to continue with our ministry.”

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Crosby also received financial assistance through the Aid to Poor Parishes Fund to replace the tile on its church’s aging roof. Pastor, Father Christian Unachukwu, M.S.P., said he hopes future funding will help with other important projects on his list. This includes the addition of a new fence to make the campus more safe and secure.

“Our church has enormous projects on its plate and can only accomplish them if the faithful support her financially well,” said Father Unachukwu. “Support for DSF and the Aid to Poor Parishes Fund, as well as other such contributions, will go a long way toward helping the Archdiocese meet the various needs of the parishes. This will eventually translate into providing a better place, community, and parish for all to worship.”

Father Kingsley Ogbuji at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church said the Aid to Poor Parishes Fund recently allowed his parish to fix damage caused by a leaking pipe in one of the parish hall classrooms. Because the entire floor flooded, water was pumped out and new ceiling tiles, flooring, and sheetrock were installed, as well as all walls and ceilings repainted. In addition, the old air conditioning units were replaced as a result.

“Our catechism classes are held in the parish hall, so if the repairs were not made, we would have had to postpone the start date even further and scramble to find somewhere to accommodate approximately 80 students,” said Father Ogbuji. “Our hall is the only place we have for social events. For six months, we were unable to socialize because the hall was damaged, but thanks be to God and the generous support of the Archdiocese, we are up and running again.”

Father Ogbuji said words cannot express his parish’s gratitude to those that support the Aid to Poor Parishes Fund by giving to the annual DSF. He said while it may be a mere collection for some, it would have been impossible for his parish to fix the extensive damage to the parish hall.

With future funding, he hopes the parish rectory that currently has a leak in the sewage system can be fixed.
“It is an act of charity when we help the least of God’s children, and in this case, poorer parishes,” said Father Ogbuji. “It helps our parishioners feel that people care about them in their financial struggles. It really gives them hope, strengthens their faith, and challenges them to show kindness and love to others.”

Father Martin Eke, MSP, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, agrees that his parish would not be able to afford recent repairs and updates without this funding.

This included the recent repair of the school building’s canopy, and the purchase of a new heating system and required flood insurance. He said he already has a grant request to cover future flood insurance, which is very expensive.

“Without the Aid to Poor Parishes Fund assistance, a parish like St. Francis of Assisi would close down because the parish would not be able to sustain itself financially,” said Father Eke. “Parishioners and many people do not know or understand the weight of parish issues on pastors, especially those like me who have to ask every time to keep the parish going. I pray the Archdiocese may continue to help lift some of the weight off the pastors of poor parishes through this type of funding.”

For more information about the Aid to Poor Parishes Fund and 2019 DSF annual campaign, go to www.archgh.org/dsf. †