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Year of mercy inspires Catholic churches to build house for local family

Dan Fannin, right, and master gardener Jim Senko discuss plans Tuesday for landscaping the single-family home under construction in the Midland neighborhood of Tacoma. The Habitat for Humanity home is being sponsored by 25 parishes and missions of the Catholic archdiocese's Pierce County deanery. Fannin and Senko are members of St. John Bosco Church in Lakewood.
Dan Fannin, right, and master gardener Jim Senko discuss plans Tuesday for landscaping the single-family home under construction in the Midland neighborhood of Tacoma. The Habitat for Humanity home is being sponsored by 25 parishes and missions of the Catholic archdiocese's Pierce County deanery. Fannin and Senko are members of St. John Bosco Church in Lakewood. dperine@thenewstribune.com

Many organizations donate time and money to help build Pierce County Habitat for Humanity homes, but few commit to single-handedly funding and constructing one.

The Pierce County Deanery, a collection of 25 Catholic churches, is doing just that to mark Pope Francis’ call for a year of mercy. The group has committed to raising the $60,000 needed to build a Habitat home.

“And not just write a check and walk away from it,” said Jason Gauthier, Tacoma and Pierce County Habitat for Humanity director of operations. “They’re trying to get every parish in Pierce County to work at least one day on the build site over the next three months.”

The donation is noteworthy for another reason: The home the Deanery is building at the The Woods at Golden Given community in Midland will be Pierce County Habitat’s 250th house.

The house, which will be dedicated to Pope Francis, is expected to be finished in early October. Habitat for Humanity has not yet selected a family to live in the house.

Gauthier said the fact that Habitat for Humanity has built 250 homes in Pierce County in 30 years shows a dedication to the families and communities of Tacoma and Pierce County who can’t afford to buy a house, or who are otherwise underprivileged.

“I like to think we’re making the dream of homeownership a reality for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to,” Gauthier said.

For Dan Fannin of the St. John Bosco parish in Lakewood, that vision aligned perfectly with the pope’s Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.

A Jubilee typically occurs every 25 years, and is seen as a time for universal pardon of sins. The 2016 Jubilee year is extraordinary because Pope Francis called for it outside the usual cycle. During this time, Fannin said all parishes worldwide are expected to focus on mercy.

“Acts of mercy occur through sight, through feeling and through action — you can see something that touches your heart that requires mercy, you can have a gut reaction, and you can take action and do something about it,” Fannin said. “Homelessness and marginalized people certainly deserve our mercy.”

That’s why Fannin approached the Rev. Nicholas Wichert, pastor of Visitation parish and head of the Pierce County Deanery, with the idea of sponsoring and building a house for a local family.

“Two days later, we had a meeting in the deanery,” Wichert said. “Literally all the priests didn’t ask many questions, they just jumped in and said, ‘Yes, that’s something we’d love to do.’ 

The walls for the house were raised June 11 with the help of more volunteers than they had work for, Fannin said. Once the walls were raised, parishioners used markers to write well-wishes and prayers on the beams for the family that will one day inhabit it.

Fannin said photos taken that day will be the first to go into a digital scrapbook sent to the pope when the Jubilee year ends Nov. 20.

In the meantime, the 25 parishes of the Pierce County Deanery will continue taking turns working on the house.

“It’s just about Pope Francis really extending that mercy to all people,” Wichert said. “Seeking to help make that message of mercy known.”

Hannah Shirley: 253-597-8679, @itshannah7

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