Years ago I heard Card. George tell a large meeting of Catholic journalists that it was our responsibility to report on the life of grace and God’s action in our midst.
I have something to report.
The fascinating famous parish of St. Agnes in St. Paul (MN – USA), where the late Msgr. Schuler was pastor for over three decades, has three schools, an elementary, a middle and a high school.
These schools, especially the high school, have drawn the parish’s resources severly. Operating expenses are great. Enrollment wasn’t keeping up.
Two pastors, Msgr. Schuler and Fr. Welzbacher, had dealt with the problems of the school, each doing what had to be done as they faced their challenges. Schuler kept the place going through the cataclysmic 70’s. After Schuler retired, some problematic and dissenting teachers stirred troubles Welzbacher had to cope with. He shored up the faculty, but some damage had resulted and enrollment suffered.
The new pastor, Fr. John Ubel had to bat clean up.
Fr. Ubel (there for about a year now) faced a difficult set of choices regarding the high school. The bottom had finally caught up. The high school probably had to close. Some 1.5 million was needed to deal with debt and provide a foundation for the future.
Fr. Ubel put the facts before the people.
The results were amazing.
Two anonymous donors gave contributions of $1 million and $1.6 million.
The school raised $750,000.
67 new students were enrolled
All told, some $3.2 million were raised.
This all took about three weeks, during which time the parish also buried its long beloved retired pastor Msgr. Schuler and received a personal message from Pope Benedict XVI to boot.
What happened? An anonymous couple had promised a $500,000 matching grant. The school fundraising did more than meet it. So, the couple pledged another $500,000 Monday. The anonymous gift of $1.6 mill will be used for an endowment. Of the $750,000 raised by the school, $100,000 was from a benefit performance of the spring musical Beauty and the Beast. $15 came from a class of fourth-graders. Rich and poor alike did what they could.
But there is more to this, I think, than a simple success story for the school.
The good news from St. Agnes is revelatory.
Transparency and realism about the state of affairs made real solutions possible.
Lay people and clergy have complimentary roles.
Obstacles require grace, but grace builds on elbow grease.
As a Church we are facing frightening challenges. We must bring them into the light and look at them squarely for what they are. Otherwise, we will never find the right path. Each one of us have a role to play here according to our vocations and means, each in our own time and place. One person or group can’t do it all. When even one person or group drops out, we all suffer the loss. We must all of us do everything we are capable of doing, even as we call upon God for help. All good things are of God. He gives us our good work to do. When we cooperate with His will and reach our hands out to the task, He then makes our hands strong enough for the labor. So, our successes are at the same time ours, everyone’s and His, in Whom they have their origin and their goal.