Last month the parish held several information meetings to outline our plans for renovations here at Holy Redeemer. Our architect, Deacon Tom Palanza, came to show us renderings of the design for the elevator addition and other modifications to the church and parish hall. He answered questions and listened to concerns and suggestions from parishioners. Reactions from the parishioners I spoke with after the meeting were very positive. Many said that they were excited about our plans and looked forward to seeing the project come to fruition.
However, a parishioner approached me when most participants had dispersed after one of the meetings. She said, “Father, do you really think this is a good time to do this project? You know they say we are headed for a recession, and inflation is out of control.” While I had anticipated someone making that claim, it still felt disheartening to hear it. Regardless of economic conditions and evident needs, someone always comes forward to question the timing of every project or plan.
It is never the optimum time for a new initiative in everyone’s mind, and there are always naysayers who fear going forward with any new project. Today’s Gospel tells us that we must give up the idea that there will be a better time to respond to God in the future. Jesus tells us that faithful disciples must be ready to react quickly to the master’s call at any time and in every situation. The author of our excerpt from the Book of Wisdom also reminded his readers that the Israelites were ready to respond on the night of the exodus because they had faith God would provide for them. They recognized God’s timing was now and prepared to respond with great sacrifice.
Faith is necessary for the success of every endeavor. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote a memorable definition of faith. He said,
"Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things unseen."
He used the example of Abraham and Sarah waiting for decades to see God fulfill God’s promise to make them the parents of a great nation. Finally, a faithful God fulfilled that promise and sent them a son.
We have been considering our renovation project for a long time, and I believe most parishioners believe now is the time. These church renovations are needed to provide optimum access to our church. I have often said we must remember our church isn’t a clubhouse for Catholics. It must be a welcoming, comfortable, and hospitable place not only for parishioners but for everyone who seeks a relationship with God through his son Jesus Christ.
When I took up my assignment here at Holy Redeemer five years ago, I was presented with a preliminary renovation plan. I recognized that I needed to establish some credibility before initiating a project. That first winter, a small group of parishioners did their best to attack my credibility, which didn’t help. During the past three years, during the covid pandemic, the Parish Finance Committee and other parish leaders have helped me consider various renovation options. Now is the time to go forward. We must put fear aside and put our faith in God.
The renovation plans are for an addition on the parking lot side of the church that will accommodate an elevator, additional seating, a new sacristy, and a more inviting side entrance to the church and parish center. The focal point of the addition will be a stained glass window visible from Old Harbor Road that will indicate this building is a Catholic Church. The window will be one repurposed from a church that has closed.
Other renovations will add a restroom at the back of the church where the chair lift is located and the installation of additional restrooms in the parish hall. We will eliminate the present sacristy and cry room to enlarge the sanctuary and make it more accessible. An area at the front of the church will accommodate the organ and allow the choir to face the congregation. We will remove pews at the back of the church to establish a family area and space for hospitality. Wider aisles will be created, and we will install new benches with cushioned seats. Since it has been about forty years since our last renovations, we must undertake improvements to the fire alarm and other safety systems. If we have sufficient funds, we plan improvements to the parking lot.
In the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, church attendance has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels, and it remains only about 75-80% of what it was before the pandemic. We must invite those who have fallen out of the habit of coming to Mass to come back. There are unchurched and de-churched people, many waiting for an invitation from you to come to church, but the constraints of our church limit you from doing that. If Holy Redeemer Parish is to grow deeper and wider, we must be a robust spiritual community with an accessible church.
This project will cost approximately $3M. Bishop DaCunha will allow us to take $1.5M from parish savings, and $525,000 will come from the recent sale of land in S. Chatham to the town as a site for affordable housing. The remaining $1M balance we hope to raise in a Capital Campaign that will begin this month.
In today’s Gospel, Peter asks Jesus, “Lord is this parable meant for us or everyone?” Jesus responds by warning that He speaks to everyone, encouraging them to have a relationship with the Lord and to be ready for the Lord’s coming. I want to encourage everyone, both year-round and seasonal parishioners, to make a sacrificial gift to the Capital Campaign. This parish is all of ours.
This week I gave the morning devotional for the workers at the site of two affordable houses under construction by Habitat for Humanity in W. Chatham. In addition to the skilled volunteer workers, the team included the two women who will become the owners of the houses. Habitat for Humanity requires them to contribute sweat equity to their new homes. Sweat equity helps the homeowners appreciate what they will receive and gives them a sense of accomplishment and ownership. Every parishioner needs to contribute to the capital campaign as your sweat equity going into a project that will benefit you and generations of parishioners to come.
When you receive the Capital Campaign mailing in the next few days, please review it and pray about your giving level. I ask you to make a campaign gift that goes beyond your comfort zone. If you are considering a four-figure gift, pray about making it a five-figure one. If you believe you feel comfortable with a five-figure gift, could you push the envelope and make a six-figure one? Our giving is an act of worship and helps deepen our faith.
I feel incredibly blessed by my call from God to be a priest, and I can not imagine my life being as whole and rewarding following any other vocation. I am grateful, and to show it, I intend to make a five-figure gift to our capital campaign. I pray all of you will show your appreciation for God’s blessing by offering a sacrificial gift to God.
Today’s first reading from Wisdom spoke about how it took great courage for the Israelites to leave slavery in Egypt and risk setting out for a promised land that none of them knew. They trusted in God, and their faith journey became an incredible opportunity to grow in grace. It deepened their love for God and helped them grow closer to God.
Holy Redeemer Parish is undertaking our spiritual journey. We, too, can make it an excellent opportunity for our faith to grow, and it can help all of us to deepen our personal life of faith. I ask everyone to make the success of this capital campaign an intention of your daily prayer over the next couple of months. If you don’t pray every day, could the success of our renovation project give you the incentive to start doing so? Could you find it in your heart to set aside a few minutes each day, when it is most convenient for you, to say the Generosity Prayer in today’s bulletin? We get what we pray for, and it will not only help your parish, but it will help you establish a relationship of love and confidence in God’s care for you.
I want to encourage everyone who feels like the woman who spoke to me after the meeting to place their trust in God. As Jesus said in today’s gospel, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” If we overcome our fear and share our gifts with generosity, Holy Redeemer Parishioners will be a bit of the kingdom on earth, and generations to come will give us glory.