The Catholic Church has divided up the world and called it our own: the universal church on planet earth is divided into conferences; conferences are divided into dioceses, dioceses into deaneries or vicariates, those into parishes, and parishes into homes that are, de facto, the domestic church. As part of the United States Conference, the Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph, and northland deanery, we are Saint Charles Borromeo Parish. But when I moved here in July, 2016, I realized that I couldn’t succeed without some help from those who’re part of the wider community of faith. Having been somewhat spoiled—or at least made comfortable—at my previous assignment in south Kansas City and having served all twenty-nine years of my priesthood in Jackson County, south of the big river, I was without grounding when I arrived.
Some members of my last parish, Saint Thomas More, helped me to move. We quickly discovered that the challenges I faced would be enormous. My new parish had been operating at a several hundred thousand dollar deficit for consecutive years, the sixty to seventy year old buildings were in various stages of demise and disrepair, the school was threatened with closure, the parish office—a former convent—was on a foundation mired with cracks, holes, asbestos, and other maladies that made it condemnable, the church roof leaked, the school windows were archaic and inefficient, and the rectory was filled with black mold, having been trashed to a point that I was cautioned not to live there. But live here I do—because I had a lot of help from my friends.
STM parishioners, in conjunction with those of SCB, began dividing up the work at the rectory and conquering the obstacles: mold removal, foundation repairs, re-grading the land and sealing the building from further damage, replacing the roof and HV/AC unit, ripping out carpet, walls, and wood, gutting the basement, sealing walls from further mold, scrubbing, painting, repairing, hauling off things that were unusable, donating used furniture to replace what was taken, and transforming it into a beautiful rectory—not just a place for parish priests to live but a place for parishioners to gather. This is my fifth assignment as a priest. I was deeply touched to learn that word about my situation spread to my former parishes and other friends I had made along the way; people from Visitation in Kansas City, Nativity in Leawood, Saint John Lalande in Blue Springs, and a few other places, joined the group from SCB and STM to help. The long and short of it is that the old rectory is looking new; all contributions were made by these parishioners without borders. The rectory is serving now as an incentive for Saint Charles parishioners to take on other deferred maintenance issues on our property—some big and some small. How wonderful it is to know that we’re not alone! In God’s world, there are no borders or boundaries.
~Fr. Don Farnan