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January 21, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA

articles list

Livermore’s St. Michael Parish builds homes for Salvador flood victims

The paradox of marriage probed around pool table pulpit

Retablo folk art on exhibit at St. Mary’s College

De La Salle High starts aid program for students of low-income families

Four urban schools join Catholic Schools Consortium

Heavenly Harmony to join Pueri Cantores festival

Schools to conclude Catholic Schools Week with picnic lunch near new cathedral center

Diocesan pastoral ministry schools honor 37 new graduates at a liturgy on Feb. 24

Schools host founder of Zimbabwe AIDS orphanage

Teachers to learn new techniques at faire

States reject funds for abstinence ed

Comic books aim to protect students from sexual abuse

Bishops approve curriculum framework for catechesis of high school students

Vatican sizes up today═s Catholic schools as partnership between religious, laity

Diocese will mark 100th anniversary of Christian Unity week

College students track sex trafficking in San Francisco

Retired bishop apologizes to Indians for Church’s treatment

Mexican Church leaders criticize NAFTA changes














Livermore’s St. Michael Parish
builds homes for Salvador flood victims

The Garcia family is waiting to move into one of the new homes which will replace the mud structure in which they currently live.

St. Michael Parish in Livermore might be one of the few American Catholic churches to have an entire neighborhood named after it.

Father Ismael Gutierrez learned about the honor when he traveled to Masahuat, El Salvador, this past Thanksgiving with a small bundle of house keys which he presented to the owners of seven new homes in a neighborhood now called “Projecta San Miguel.” St. Michael’s is helping to build 25 new homes there.

Two years ago, flooding demolished an entire neighborhood near a creek. Since then, families have been living in shanties built of cloth, plastic, and corrugated roofing.

This is one of the 25 cement-block homes being built in Masahuat, El Salvador, with funds donated by members of St. Michael Parish in Livermore.

One day, after reading about the tragedy in the morning paper, Father Gutierrez approached some of the parish’s large group of Salvadoran parishioners about how best to help. They quickly responded by organizing a dance, followed a few weeks later by an elegant Italian dinner. Both events raised a total of $15,000.

Initial elation turned into shock when Father Gutierrez personally delivered the money to the local Catholic Bishop Jose Adolfo Mojica, leader of the El Sonsonate Diocese.

“I saw so much need there,” said the priest. “It would be impossible for the people to rebuild even one house by themselves.” The average monthly income for a household is $30, earned mainly through harvesting local seasonable crops, Father Gutierrez said.

The family living in this house was allowed to move it to the project site while they wait for their new home to be finished. They were in extreme danger from flooding at their previous site.

One morning, he discovered for himself just how hard people work. He was awakened at 4 a.m. by a family living next door to the rectory where he was staying. They were going out to pick coffee. They and other families and would earn a total of $6 dollars per day per family. “They are living by a miracle,” he said.

Donations for Projecta San Miguel can be sent to:
St. Michael Catholic Church
Attn: Projecta San Miguel
458 Maple Street
Livermore, CA 94550-3238
Father Gutierrez returned to Livermore, determined to make a much bigger miracle happen for his new friends. He approached his pastor, Father Ray Sacca, about the possibility of having a second Sunday collection. Father Sacca said “yes” and the parish did, too, filling the baskets with another $15,000. Father Sacca has since moved to a diocesan post and Father Gutierrez is the parish’s parochial administrator pro tem.

When his parishioners heard even more details about the plight of the townspeople in Masahuat, many of them pledged to give monthly donations of $100 towards building homes and whatever else was needed to make the construction happen.

Families contribute sweat equity by helping to clear the land where their new homes will be built as part of Projecta San Miguel.

Father Gutierrez learned that a new parcel of land, away from the creek and closer to the center of the town, would be a better location for the community to avoid future flooding disasters.

So last year, the parish donated funds to Bishop Mojica to help him buy some property away from the creek and close to both a soccer field and a school.

Last summer, the bishop hired two professional contractors and the families needing new homes provided the sweat equity.

By the end of November the first seven homes were ready, so over the Thanksgiving weekend, Father Gutierrez returned to Masahuat with the keys for the new owners. Each concrete block house as three rooms plus a dining area. A separate kitchen with a wood burning stove (the customary way of cooking) and bathroom are outside.
“Happy” is an inadequate word to describe the owners’ reactions, reports the priest. One family told him, “We never thought we’d ever have our own home.”

One woman called her new dwelling “a miracle,” he said.

Work continues on the remaining 18 homes. Father Gutierrez expects to make frequent visits to “Projecta San Miguel” with more door keys.

Above: One of the first homes to be built at Projecta San Miguel is ready except for its roof. Seven families have now moved into new homes. Right: The Reyes family, standing outside their current home, was selected to receive a new house in Projecta San Miguel because of their great need for decent shelter.

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