Archbishop Wenski blesses Pope Francis House, project of Habitat for Humanity, archdiocese
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Jonathan Martinez – Florida Catholic
MIAMI | What does it take to build a home? In the case of Kiondra Ross, it took 12 weekends, 126 volunteers from parishes, schools, community groups, and universities throughout the Archdiocese of Miami, and over 1,000 hours of collective work.
The Pope Francis Home — named as a tribute to the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy that opened Dec. 8 — was built to help a local low income family achieve their dream of home ownership.
Photographer: JONATHAN MARTINEZ |FC
Kiondra Ross holds a statue of the Nativity, with an angel announcing the birth of Jesus, that was presented to her by Archbishop Thomas Wenski. The statue was a gift in honor of the completion and blessing of Ross’ new Pope Francis House. Looking up at her is her son, Kaydan.
The Archdiocese of Miami and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami teamed up for the project, which was supported by a $60,000 donation from the archdiocese to match a grant made by an anonymous donor.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski was on hand Dec. 5 to celebrate the completion of the house and to impart a special blessing to both the home and the family that will live in it.
“We ask you to bless this home, Lord, as we strive to awaken the compassionate hearts in our community to the need for affordable housing in the city of Miami,” the archbishop said while addressing the home’s recipients — Ross and her family — along with some of the volunteers who helped build it.
“The work that has been accomplished here should enliven our faiths and make us grateful,” he continued, citing the words of the psalm: “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor.”
“Whenever we look to the interests of our neighbor or the community and serve them, we are, in a sense, God’s own co-workers,” the archbishop said.
Ross is a single mother of three and graduate of Johnson & Wales University in North Miami. She worked alongside the volunteers from Habitat for Humanity and the Archdiocese of Miami each weekend and saw every step of progress made towards the construction of her home.
“To say thank you seems minuscule to all that you have done,” she told those attending the blessing ceremony. “I have truly grasped and understand that in carrying and helping others you all hold a special place in our heart.”
During the ceremony, the archbishop presented Ross with house warming gifts including a statue of the Nativity with an angel announcing the birth of Jesus.
Mario Artecona, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, gave Ross a couple of gifts as well, including what he called a “user’s manual” for her new house: a copy of the Bible.
“Remember that every nail that went in, every tile that was put down, and every brush stroke was done with love. Let that always be what powers your home,” Artecona said.
Among the dozens present at the ceremony were some people who heard about the project and wanted to contribute. Cathy Donn, a parishioner at St. Bernadette Church in Hollywood, made four quilts for Ross and her three children in celebration of the completion and blessing of her home.
“After reading her story in the Florida Catholic it just called to me to do something special for her and her family,” said Donn. “It makes me feel so good to know that they are moving into a new home and that I can bring them a little color and warmth.”
Those who dedicated hours of labor to building the house enjoyed an emotional reunion, having come full circle with Ross and finally seeing the completed project.
“We were invited to come out on the first day of the build, so it was only natural to come on the last day to see the family and to hand over the house, to be here to support Kiondra and her family and all the other volunteers.” said Rafael Egues, a member of the young adult group at St. Augustine Church and Catholic Student Center in Coral Gables. “It’s great to see her kids here getting ready to finally move in sometime this month. I just hope it makes her life a little bit easier. I’m looking forward to see what the future holds for her.”
“I think that this particular Pope Francis build is exactly what the archdiocese and the donors had in mind” to honor Pope Francis and heed his call to “deeper discipleship shared in the world,” said Stephen Colella, director of theSecretariat for Evangelization and Parish Life in the archdiocese.
His department was in charge of finding and coordinating the volunteers throughout the weeks of construction.
The extraordinary jubilee runs from Dec. 8, 2015 to Nov. 20, 2016, and bears the motto, “Merciful like the Father.” Pope Francis has said his intention in proclaiming the holy year is for the Church to “make more evident its mission to be a witness of mercy.”
A number of projects are being spearheaded by the archdiocese to meet the pope’s goal for the Year of Mercy. The projects include new initiatives in Catholic schools and parishes, and archdiocesan events.
As for Ross, she and her family will be moving into their three-bedroom/two-bath single family home by the end of December.
“I feel really blessed and happy that I have the opportunity to get ready to move in. I’m really happy with all the volunteers coming out. To see the house go from just a concrete slab on the floor, to the walls, the windows… it’s all really a blessing,” said Ross. “To all the volunteers, I want to tell them how appreciative I am, how thankful I am. I really enjoyed working with everyone. Everybody coming out helping create this place for me. I wish them the best because and I know they wish me the best as well.”