By Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, diocesan vicar for development
St. Mel’s parish, Flushing, is celebrating its 75th anniversary and the success of its Generations of Faith fundraising drive.
Father Gerard Sauer, pastor who has been at St. Mel’s for six years, entered the pilot phase of the capital campaign last year.
“As the diocese was planning Generations of Faith and setting the goals at each parish, we were also considering our own initiative to secure funding for a 75th anniversary project for the interior of the church,” explained Father Sauer.
“After doing our own research, we decided to move forward with a combined campaign, and set our challenge goal at $1.6 million. After months of campaigning, the people pledged $2.4 million, which is allowing us to not only renovate inside the church, but to take care of $500,000 in repairing and replacing the five roofs that are in our complex.”
Now that pilot parishes have begun to receive their share of the funds from Generations of Faith, the renovations can begin on June 20. On Sept. 9, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will rededicate the new church, and on Nov. 4 the parish family will celebrate the anniversary year with a gala.
“The pastoral council, finance council and parish trustees helped to shape and to guide not only the anniversary year, but the renovation of the church itself,” Father Sauer said.
He said the committee came up with the case, explaining, “much like when someone has a home, sometimes a home after 35 years needs to be refurbished. Our last renovation was 35 years ago. The carpet and wallpaper were looking tired and worn, the lighting system and technical aspects of the church have become antiquated. There was a need to re-beautify the inside of the church. And there was the practical need of repairing roofs on the academy, church and rectory, to maintain the work on the inside and outside of the building, which was last repaired over 20 years ago.”
As was the case with many pastors going into the campaign, Father Sauer said, “This was a project that I was nervous about beginning and I had a great deal of anxiety beginning a project of such magnitude.”
However, the anxiety and nervousness was met with love and generosity.
“Their response showed that they love their parish, that they believe in the mission of the diocese, and that they were excited about the projects we were completing here,” said Father Sauer.
“There’s a continued spirit of excitement as they see the sketches being rolled out; they’ve been part of that process. That dream of a year ago has become a reality for them.”
Piety, Enthusiasm, Generosity
Father Sauer loves his parishioners’ “spirit of prayerfulness, the evidence of their faith which is shown through their piety, their enthusiasm and their generosity.”
He said, “Celebrating our 75th anniversary has reaffirmed the fact that parishioners love their parish, and that they are committed to the long-term viability of a Catholic presence in Flushing. It has shown how many generations of people have been right here from the beginning.”