Over 60 years ago, the faith community of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Fort Wayne, struggled to raise the necessary funds to build a church. Among the Catholics living in the developing northeast quadrant of the city, resources proved few.
Other parishes in the area realized that the community’s journey to becoming a parish could not be completed alone.
St. Jude Parish purchased for St. Charles a neighborhood house that became the parish’s first rectory. It was where the first pastor of the fledgling parish, Msgr. Edward Hession, would live for nine years. And as crews constructed the St. Charles Borromeo Church, St. Patrick Parish, Fort Wayne, made a generous offer to buy the pews, while St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Wayne, loaned St. Charles folding chairs to use for worship services until those pews arrived. Today St. Charles, now the fourth most populous parish in the diocese, seeks to return the favors.
“Every Christian is called to be a good steward,” said St. Charles’ pastor, Father Thomas Shoemaker. “There is nothing very complicated about that; the life of a good steward is simply a life of thankfulness and a life of sharing. Good stewards recognize that they have gifts from God, and then they do what they can to share those gifts with others.
“As each individual is called to be a good steward, so is a parish,” he continued. “A parish family needs to see the many gifts they have been given, and then to share.” Father Shoemaker helps his parish to accomplish this sharing.
With the help of his leadership, St. Charles Borromeo recently expanded its financial support for other parishes. For years, it had financially “twinned” with three other parishes in Fort Wayne as a stewardship parish. “A stewardship parish will work with other parishes and charities, providing volunteers and support,” he informed. “A stewardship parish will invite other groups to use their facilities when that is feasible. And a stewardship parish also will share financial resources.”
Not too long ago, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades contacted Father Shoemaker regarding another parish in need of financial aid. Father Shoemaker said he considered asking the St. Charles Borromeo Finance Council if the relationship with one of the three parishes with which it was already twinned should be reconsidered in favor of the new parish. However, on the advice of the parish and finance councils, the leadership of St. Charles determined they could twin with a fourth local parish.
St. Charles also finds a way to makes a generous annual donation to diocesan seminarians. “Since St. Charles Borromeo is the patron saint of seminarians, we’ve focused on the formation of new priests,” said Father Shoemaker. The parish takes up several collections to aid in the living expenses and tuition of seminarians.” The parish also has adopted a Ugandan seminary.
Reflecting on the abundant, life-giving generosity of several parishes to St. Charles Borromeo several decades ago, and in accord with the generosity of that parish today, it seems that the tradition of parish twinning sets in motion a diocese not only prosperous in financial resources, but in the life-giving message of the Gospel as well. The donations and sacrifices made on behalf of St. Charles Borromeo Parish helped thousands of children graduate with a Catholic education, and baptized, confirmed, and witnessed the weddings of these and countless more. Those seeds of generosity, planted in 1957, grew into a bountiful tree that now has the capacity to sow more seeds in the diocese.
“Jesus has a parable in which a steward is asked to give an account: ‘What did you do with all of the gifts you were given?’” Father Shoemaker said. “We hope that one day we will be able to answer the Lord that we were grateful for our many gifts and that we did our best to share with others.”
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