OGDEN — On Oct. 3, 2015, St. Joseph Parish in Ogden dedicated their new religious education center. Now, almost four years later, the building’s $2.3 million mortgage has been completely paid off.
The building was made possible through a $500,000 donation from the Trappist monks of the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity in Huntsville, which closed in 2017. The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City also contributed $50,000, but the bulk of the debt was paid off through the hard work and generosity of the St. Joseph Parish community.
“These people donated from their heart. When you think about all of the debt, they gave almost $1.8 million out of their hard-earned money,” said Judy Franklin, the parish administrator, who went through the whole mortgage payment process.
Watching the parish’s Anglo and Hispanic communities work as one toward the goal was a beautiful thing, she said.
“This is an extension of our faith, it is an extension of our home; when we come here we come in sorrow, we come here in prayerful bliss, we come here for all the celebrations (weddings, baptisms, Communion),” she said. “This is an extension of our home. I believe that everybody here feels that, believes that, and is committed to that.”
Each year, the parish has an average of 500 to 600 children and adults in religious education, and “we have needed this building for so long,” said Pat Martinez, who has been a St. Joseph parishioner since the 1950s, when she was 3 years old.
“This has been years of work and love, and we are really thrilled our building is now ours,” she said.
Her feeling was shared by Andrea Renteria, who has been a parishioner there since 1999.
““When we really want to, we can. … If we have faith in God everything is possible,” Renteria said, adding that seeing how the parish has grown has been like watching her extended family grow.
As a symbol of the achievement, Fr. Michael Sciumbato, pastor, held a mortgage-burning ceremony after each of the July 14 Masses.
“I thank you all for your goodness and your generosity. We need to say a prayer and be thankful to all the priests who came here before me and also contributed to building our religious education center. Without all of you, this couldn’t be true,” Fr. Sciumbato said.
The day’s celebration included a small feast put together by the charismatic renovation prayer group.
Paying off the mortgage “was not an easy task; we have supported it very hard, and this is a great success. … It was not easy collecting almost $2 million,” said Joel Romero, a member of the prayer group.
Over the past four years, the Hispanic community worked intensively at fundraisers, putting together small fairs, and donating, preparing and selling food. They all donated despite the hardships that they might have faced in their daily lives.
“This is just the love that we have for God, and if we love him, we love our community,” Romero said. “Having an encounter with God has made giving our resources to our parish very easy; we do it with our hearts.”
“Every penny counted,” added his wife, Maricela Romero.
With the religious education building paid off, the parish community has a new goal: to collect funds to repair the church roof and install new carpet.