By Dan Russo
CEDAR RAPIDS — Laura Brown held back tears of joy as she thanked a crowd of people assembled to mark the recent completion and dedication of the Pope Francis House, a Habitat for Humanity home in Cedar Rapids that she and her children are moving into soon.
In addition to Pope Francis himself, Brown had a long list of groups and individuals to whom she expressed gratitude
“I would also like to thank the volunteers who helped on build days,” she said at the ceremony Oct. 1. “I would like to express my appreciation to my job for accommodating me as much as they did.”
Archbishop Michael Jackels handed the keys to the house to the mother of two as her son, Kaneil, and daughter, Kaylah, stood by her side. The Archdiocese of Dubuque joined many Catholic parishes in Cedar Rapids and multiple other institutions and churches in helping fund and build the project. Many of those supporters were present at the dedication, along with representatives of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity.
“If I take anything from the visit of Pope Francis (to the United States), it is just to remind us of Jesus … to open our eyes to those who need our help,” said the archbishop from the front porch of the newly built home.
Before the end of the ceremony, Archbishop Jackels offered a blessing: “May the peace of Christ rule in this house and in our hearts,” he said.
The concept of a Pope Francis House in Cedar Rapids began in 2014 when an anonymous donor approached the Cedar Valley branch of Habitat for Humanity, pledging $60,000 toward the project. The donor wished to provide a “unifying, celebratory opportunity for both Catholic and non-Catholic volunteers to work toward a common goal,” according to a memorandum of understanding between Habitat and the anonymous party. The donor also wished a sign on the property recognizing the pope for his “commitment to social justice and reinvigorating the Catholic Church.”
After a major fundraising effort, the Catholic parishes of Cedar Rapids, Mt. Mercy University, the archdiocese, Catholic Daughters of the Americas, the Knights of Columbus, Wells Fargo, and many other schools, groups and individuals acquired the rest of the $40,000 needed to pay for the building of the home.
Volunteers also helped Habitat staff and the Brown family in building the residence on volunteer workdays, with construction starting about three months ago. Habitat is an ecumenical Christian charity that partners with low-income families in need of housing. The participants, like Brown, invest 300-400 hours of “sweat equity” in helping to build the homes and also receive a mortgage loan from the organization, which is paid back over time, based on what the families can afford.
In 2015, Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity (CVHFH) is slated to build seven homes in the Cedar Rapids area, according to Victoria Mueller, community relations coordinator for the local branch. She attended the dedication ceremony along with CVHFH executive director Jeff Capps.
“They’re just a beautiful family and they were a joy to work with,” said Mueller of Laura Brown and her children.
As part of the dedication, singers from St. Pius X Elementary School performed, Father Phil Thompson, pastor of St. Pius X, read Scripture, Dustin Hinrichs of Trees Forever helped the family plant an oak in front of the home and various volunteers and local companies gave house warming gifts to the family. An open house tour of the newly completed home was given afterwards. Other Pope Francis Homes are being built around the nation thanks to anonymous donations and the help of many others. For more information on CVHFH, call 319-366-4485 or visit www.cvhabitat.org.
This story is provided courtesy of The Witness, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.