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Two Parishes Launch Capital Campaign to Benefit Another in the Valley

By Denis Grasska

EL CENTRO — Two San Diego parishes have launched a capital campaign, not to raise money for themselves, but for a sister parish in El Centro.

St. Brigid Parish in Pacific Beach and St. Therese of Carmel Parish in Carmel Valley have committed themselves to raising $1 million each toward the renovation of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish’s church hall. Parishioners have been given a three-year period to fulfill their pledges.

An additional $1.5 million will be generated through the fundraising efforts of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) funds earmarked for Imperial Valley parish development.

Msgr. Steve Callahan, pastor of St. Brigid Parish, said the idea for the capital campaign originated after he heard Father Mark Edney, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, speak at an ACA kick-off luncheon in January. At the luncheon, Father Edney had explained his parish’s desire to renovate its hall so that it could hold more people and look more like a worship space.

Father Edney told The Southern Cross that about 2,300 people attend Mass at the parish every weekend, but its church only accommodates 270 people. For the past decade, the community has worshipped in the church hall, which has a capacity of about 550. The parish development plan also includes the construction of three classrooms and additional parking space.

Msgr. Callahan, who also serves as diocesan administrator, said he was aware of many upcoming development projects at Valley parishes and knew that money would be tight. He envisioned the capital campaign as “a good model [for funding] future projects in the Valley” and hoped that his own parish, joined by St. Therese of Carmel Parish, could lead by example. (Already, St. Charles Borromeo Parish has expressed interest in collaborating with other parishes to raise funds for the same cause.)

“For us at St. Brigid, I felt it was a good expression of generosity, given that 2015 is our 75th jubilee as a parish,” Msgr. Callahan said. “The parish has a rich tradition of missionary outreach. A number of our parishioners have been involved in missionary efforts ... so there’s a receptivity on the part of our people to help another faith community with its need.”

Father Edney preached at all Masses during the weekend of Nov. 1-2 at St. Brigid, and a parish-wide mailing invited all registered parishioners to take part in the capital campaign.

As of Dec. 9, St. Brigid Parish had raised about $453,000 in gifts and pledges.

The young adult community at St. Brigid Parish, one of the most vibrant and active in the diocese, plans to organize its own fundraising events throughout the next year. The goal is for the young adult community itself to raise $100,000. 

“I’m so excited that our parish has decided to launch this capital campaign to be a part of building a church for a community so hungry for Jesus,” said Carrie Giebel, director of young adult ministry at St. Brigid Parish. “We are holding various events — 5K runs, fundraising dinners, etc. — to really make a dent in the $1 million goal.”

Father Nicholas Dempsey, pastor of St. Therese of Carmel Parish, said his parish will launch its campaign in January. He said the campaign represented an opportunity “to show our gratitude for the blessings that we have ourselves, because we’re blessed with a beautiful campus here.”

About 50 people from both parishes, including their pastors, traveled by bus to Our Lady of Guadalupe on Nov. 16 to celebrate Mass with the community, tour the parish campus and attend the annual parish fiesta. Father Edney invited Msgr. Callahan to preach at the noon Mass. 

Betty Matteson, a St. Brigid parishioner who took part in the trip, said, “As a member [of St. Brigid Parish] for 45 years, I cannot recall that we ever singled out one particular parish to help, and I love the idea of adopting Our Lady of Guadalupe. We are called to help those less fortunate than ourselves, and this is a very concrete way to go visit again and see the results of our contributions.”

Reflecting on the parish field trip, Msgr. Callahan said, “All of us were deeply moved by the hospitality of the parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe and their gratitude for our support.”

Father Dempsey added, “I think it gave the people ... a better insight into what we were running the campaign for. We celebrated Mass in the worship center and realized that the people needed a much bigger and more extensive worship center. Their parish seems to be growing.”

The Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish community was “very loving and welcoming,” he added. “Our parishioners came back ... even more determined to make the campaign a success on our part.”

Father Edney said his own parishioners were left with an equally positive impression of their brothers and sisters at St. Brigid and St. Therese of Carmel parishes.

“The people could not have been more friendly, and welcoming, and helpful, and interested,” he said. “I think they really enjoyed themselves and they got to see [the parish] firsthand.”

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