By Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, diocesan vicar for development
Born and raised in Detroit, Father Juan Gonzalez, S.M., arrived in New York in December, 2005 when he was installed as the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi-St. Blaise parish in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. This past December marked his 10th year with the church community.
“I enjoy the fact that we are a three-language community which represents West Indies countries, Latino countries and our Haitian community. The diversity of our community has been both a challenge and a gift,” Father Gonzalez said. “We all come together as one parish and that strengthens the life of our church.”
With a Generations of Faith Campaign goal of $680,000, Father Gonzalez wondered, “What would be the reaction of our parishioners as to this tremendous challenge?”
Fortunately, the support of his volunteer committee and fellow pastors along with the generosity of his parishioners reassured him and excitement for the campaign set in!
“I was reassured because this is a very generous community, probably one of the most generous communities I’ve ever ministered in. Whenever we have a challenge to raise necessary funds our parishioners always respond with enthusiasm and a lot of faith. Our parishioners are faithful Catholics and excited about being Catholic. As a result, they respond with a very generous and giving heart.”
Father Gonzalez assigned three chairpeople, one each from the Spanish, Haitian and English-speaking communities in the parish to lead a 20-person core volunteer team.
Father Gonzalez and his parish recently completed a $2 million exterior renovation of the church, so the parish leaders wanted to use this opportunity to focus on the interior of the church, including repair and refurbishment of the pews, kneelers, floors, marble, Stations of the Cross, painting as well as replacing sidewalks around the property and overall restoration of the parish center.
“I think (this campaign) is going to strengthen the life of our diocese and the life of our faith,” Father Gonzalez said.
“One of the things I would encourage (in this circumstance) is prayer. We need to believe in the goals of the campaign because if you believe with conviction, there will be enthusiasm for the Generations of Faith endeavor.”