A story is told about a man who attempted to climb Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, but he never made it to the top. Members of the expedition team that accompanied him recall his last words. When they called out to him, he called back: “I’m still climbing!”
I began this blog soon after coming to Saint Charles Borromeo Parish in the second half of 2016, in part, to chronicle for friends and benefactors the progress we make here. Back then, there were buckets placed throughout hallways to catch rainwater because of leaking roofs; two buildings (rectory and parish office) were crumbling with foundational cracks, holes, and subsequent insects, rodents, and black mold that infested them; the school was reported to be closing because of debt and drastically declining enrollment; parishioners had departed, and collections plummeted as the church was mired in a plethora of scandals—local, national, and universal. The parish couldn’t meet payroll and debts were stacked high. Every week, it seemed, there was a new crisis and every day more bad news. At that time, generous troops of charitable people (we referred to you as “parishioners without borders”) helped us out, inspired us, and, in a few cases (like paying to reroof our buildings), rescued us.
The hole we were in seemed like a deep and dark canyon from which we might never climb out. But we are…and we’re still climbing. Our school enrollment is not yet where we hoped it to be and our academy is not yet self-sustaining: our K-8 numbers went from 117 then to about 165 now but we think 200 will make us sustainable—so we keep our sights on it. What we didn’t foresee is that our pre-school enrollment expanded from less than thirty to over eighty. We’re on a good trajectory, as if we reached a summit, but we’re looking at big hills ahead. Our parish census has grown, as has Mass attendance, and we have a relatively large online following. From finances to facilities to faith formation, we are moving onward and upward. Perhaps more than anything else, there is a good and hopeful spirit among our families that overpowers all the hurdles and challenges we face, including ramifications from the worldwide pandemic that has limited our activities and dampened our collective soul.
We’ve replaced and renovated buildings; and that, too, has been a sign of hope in this, our 75th year of existence. But many of the structures are also that old, needing lots of attention and tender care. We initiated a Diamond Jubilee Capital Campaign to address items that we couldn’t face five years ago because of more striking needs. In this effort, we hope to raise about $1.5 million to expand and renovate our parish kitchen, enhance our growing early childhood education center, add a long overdue elevator to our school, upgrade our computer technology, and construct storage space for materials and equipment.
Thanks for all your help. We would not have gotten this far without you. You make the hike up the mountain an enlivening, and often enjoyable, experience. I think that we will get there. Whether we do or not, I just want you to know: “We’re still climbing!”