February 11, 2005

Home Mission Fund helps Connersville parish provide vital ministries

By Brandon A. Evans

The home missions of the archdiocese are not in a faraway land, but right here in our own back yard.

They are, as Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein has said, those parishes, schools and ministries in central and southern Indiana that need to be where they are but are struggling to meet their budget needs.

They are places that need the collaborative effort of an entire diocese to survive and continue their vital ministry, whether it be a spiritual, physical or educational ministry.

Each year, about 40 percent of the money raised from the United Catholic Appeal ( UCA ) goes toward home missions in the archdiocese.

If the 2004-05 appeal reaches its goal of $5.5 million, then more than $1.2 million will go to parish outreach, and more than $880,000 will go to school ­outreach—most of it for maintaining the seven center-city Catholic schools in Indianapolis that are trying to help children break the cycle of poverty.

Beyond that, parishes that raise more than their set goal for the UCA may opt to give some or all of that excess money to a special fund called the Saint Francis Xavier Home Mission Fund.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars are given each year from this fund in the form of grants to home mission parishes and schools that need help with everything from paying bills to fixing leaky roofs.

The parishes and schools apply for the grants.

Keeping the home missions thriving is something that all Catholics in central and southern Indiana help with whenever they donate to the UCA or volunteer at one of the parishes or schools.

Just one of the many stories about how the archdiocesan community has helped a home mission is that of St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville.

The parish has gone through a rough couple of years because of the loss of jobs and population in Fayette County, said Father Stanley Herber, pastor.

Parishioners have volunteered at the parish, doing tasks that used to be paid services.

Father Herber said that the parish has worked hard to keep the Sunday collection mostly level, but it has not been enough to erase the deficit in the parish’s operating budget.

Since July 2002, the parish has received $67,000 in home mission aid from the Saint Francis Xavier Home Mission Fund, said Pamela Rader, business manager.

The funding “helped alleviate some of the burden of our parishioners having to come up with the funds,” she said.

The most important ministry of the parish, Father Herber said, is the school, and with dropping numbers of students all over the county and already low tuition, it has been difficult.

“We want to really keep our school going at all costs,” he said.

Offering a Catholic education to the youth of the area is something that “you can’t put a price on,” Rader said.

The other ministries of the parish were also helped by the grants from the ­archdiocese—if it weren’t for the grants, some of those ministries might not exist.

“I think we would have had to cut a program, and I would hate to say what program we would cut,” she said.

The presence of the Catholic parish is an important one for the whole community, Father Herber said, not least of all because it is the only Catholic church in the county—but also because many of the local leaders are members of the parish.

“The life of the whole community is just very much strengthened by the Catholic people,” he said.

These hard years, which seem to be easing up, Father Herber said, have given the Catholic community a greater sense of ownership and life in the parish.

The archdiocesan grants have “given us a sense that we are still holding our own,” he said. “It certainly has been a wonderful help because we’ve been able to move forward with things that need to be done around here.”

“I think it’s wonderful that the archbishop started this home mission grant in the archdiocese,” Rader said.

It is important for the parish to continue on, she said, because the parish has a long tradition in the county. It is more than 150 years old.

“We have a lot yet to accomplish,” she said. “We have a lot more people out there [who] need to know about Jesus and God.” †


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