Bloomington parish, Knights lend hands, funds for Habitat for Humanity house
BLOOMINGTON — Standing in a circle of support in the living room of his family’s new home during blessing ceremonies on July 9, Fidele Makala offered a litany of gratitude.
“Our family would like to express how excited we are for this blessing,” said Makala, moments after receiving the keys to a house built by Habitat for Humanity of McLean County with financial sponsorship and volunteer support from St. Patrick Church of Merna Parish in Bloomington. “This is a new start for my family. This may be the last move.”
Makala, his wife Astride Mbembi, and their children have lived in apartments in the Bloomington-Normal region since emigrating from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2013. Now they have their own home. And last Saturday, the two-story frame structure at 707 W. Locust St. was blessed by Bishop Louis Tylka.
“Many hands have gone into this project to create this home,” said Bishop Tylka in inviting the 25 people present to place their own hands on a wall and offer prayers of support for the family and those who contributed to its construction. In fact, 304 volunteers logged more than 1,000 hours on the project, according to local Habitat representatives.
“When Christ took flesh in the Blessed Virgin Mary, he made his home with us,” prayed Bishop Tylka. “Let us now pray that he will enter this home and bless it with his presence.”
“LIVES OF STEWARDSHIP”
Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing organization. The McLean County branch has been building homes for 37 years. Families in need of decent, affordable housing apply locally to the organization for homeownership. In addition to repaying an affordable mortgage or small loan as they are able, the new owners are asked to complete several hundred hours of sweat equity working alongside volunteer builders.
Bishop Tylka was present last Saturday at the invitation of Father Dustin Schultz, pastor of St. Patrick Church of Merna, and the Knights of Columbus, Father Joseph Boylan Council No. 15175. The Knights sponsored a “wall build” for the house on the parish parking lot this spring, and the parish used rebate money from its 2020 Annual Diocesan Appeal to support the house project.
“We strive to teach, preach and live lives of stewardship,” said Father Schultz in comments at the house blessing. “One of the many things we love about Habitat for Humanity is that it gives people opportunities to share those gifts, their talent and their treasure, to help support families in need.”
Father Schultz specially thanked Jeff Lopez, a former grand knight of the local Knights of Columbus Council who now serves as the parish’s director of development and stewardship.
It was Lopez and other members of the Knights who proposed five years ago that the council sponsor an annual Habitat wall build, and that every fifth year the parish use its ADA rebate to sponsor the entire project.
Father Schultz agreed. This was the Knights’ fifth wall build, and the parish’s first house sponsorship.
“What we strive to live as a parish is what Habitat for Humanity does,” said Father Schultz. “We’re very grateful for this family to receive these gifts from God.”
MANY PARISH MINISTRIES INVOLVED
Lopez told The Catholic Post that a variety of parish ministries have gotten involved in supporting the Habitat for Humanity project, from youth ministry to parish nurses to the parish hospitality committee. Even the funeral luncheon committee plays a role, providing meals and refreshments.
“The beauty of the wall build is that you can have any age participate,” said Lopez. The Knights of Columbus council covered the $4,000 cost of materials for this spring’s wall build. Volunteers at the building site are required to be at least 16 years old.
“These guys know what they’re doing when they build the walls,” said Roger Scott, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of McLean County in welcoming remarks at the house blessing. “We just dump a bunch of lumber on (Epiphany Parish’s) parking lot, and the next thing you know we have these walls,” which are then brought to the building site.
Epiphany Parish of Normal also actively supports Habitat for Humanity. This Saturday morning, volunteers from the parish are working on a building site at 906 Bryan St. Epiphany collaborates with other area parishes to build a house bi-annually, and a team of volunteers works year-round at other sites, building and rehabbing homes.
“I’m thankful to God for everything he’s done for us,” said Makala at Saturday’s house blessing. The family is expected to move in a few weeks after carpeting is installed, a driveway poured and a front porch added.