Pope Francis house dedicated at volunteer gathering

January 12, 2016

HOUSTON — Every Saturday from Sept. 19 through Oct. 17, groups of Catholic young adults ages 18 to 35 spent their day building a house in honor of Pope Francis. On Dec. 19, many of the 300 volunteers returned for the blessing and dedication of Pope Francis House, presided by Msgr. Frank Rossi, pastor of St. Michael Church in Houston. In addition, the volunteers had the opportunity to meet the family who will be moving into the home.

Construction of Pope Francis House began after an anonymous donor challenged Houston Habitat for Humanity to build a house in honor of Pope Francis. The challenge prompted a partnership with the Archdiocesan Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministries.

“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 Office of Young Adults and Campus Ministry of the Archdiocese. “In fact, when we started looking for volunteers we were overwhelmed! In the end, we had to limit the number of volunteers per young adult group, and the number of hours each of them could help.” 

Karaszewski added it was an honor and a humbling experience to see young adults from different backgrounds working shoulder to shoulder to build a house and to help build the Kingdom of God on earth,

“It was a great reminder of what a blessing it is to have a roof over heads,” she said. I am happy one more family in Houston will have their own house thanks to the hard work of our young adults and the financial collaboration of many.”

After the dedication and blessing, Sergio and Xenia Calderon will be welcomed to their new home. Their story is one of hard work, determination and a desire to show their four children what the benefits can be.

The Calderons came to the United States from El Salvador almost 20 years ago looking for a better life. They wanted a safe place to grow a future and raise a family. Sergio and Xenia worked hard, gained citizenship, and Sergio found employment as a contractor. They quickly outgrew their small one bedroom apartment, but never thought it was possible to have anything more on their stable but small income.

“We always wanted a house of our own, but never imagined having the opportunity to own a brand new home,” Sergio Calderon said. “Houston Habitat and the young adult volunteers gave us that opportunity,”

Karaszewski said this project has been a constant reminder that Pope Francis wants the whole world to be merciful, and despite material wealth in America and despite the construction boom in Houston, there are families that are still without a home.

“We don’t have to leave the country or our state to help; we can just look at our own backyard to help,” she said.

All families that benefit from a Houston Habitat for Humanity house, including the Calderons, 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 in Houston, Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church and St. John Vianney Catholic Church, as well as other generous individuals.

To learn more about the Pope Francis House, visit Houston Habitat for Humanity at www.houstonhabitat.org or call 713-671-9993.