Eric Crowell -‐ Writing Sample 2 This piece was written as a newsletter article running the same weekend as the kick-‐off of a $2.4 Million Capital Campaign for Guardian Angels Parish. The piece was also abridged and included in a flier that was placed in the campaign material packet. I would be happy to also provide a sample of this packet of materials, which I designed for the campaign.
Embracing Our Past Guardian Angels has served the spiritual needs of the Chaska area for over 150 years. However, a Catholic presence in the area goes back several years prior to her founding as a parish. As one of the first Catholic settlements in, what was then known as the Iowa Territory, later becoming the Minnesota Territory in 1849 followed by statehood in 1858, French missionary Father Augustin Ravoux established a Catholic presence in this area at the urging of Jean-Baptiste Faribault, who managed a fur trading post here. Devout Catholics, the Faribault family had hoped that this new mission church might bring the faith to the Dakota people, and help relieve anxiety about white pioneers and traders who were making an increased presence into the river-basin settlement known as Little Prairie. By 1842, Ravoux had built a very small, but functional, log-cabin chapel, offering Masses and providing an opportunity to catechize interested tribal members. While Fr. Ravoux developed positive relationships with the Dakota, he endured a very difficult existence, living in an unheated and largely unfurnished house, eating very little, and saying Mass in the sparsely furnished log-chapel where the altar wine would often freeze in the chalice. It was a solitary life, with Fr. Ravoux doing much of the hard labor necessary to maintain the tiny Catholic outpost. In the Spring of 1845, Fr. Ravoux was unexpectedly reassigned to St. Peterâ€™s church in Mendota, throwing the fledgling Catholic community into turmoil. It may seem small today, but Father Ravoux had converted 15 families to the faith â€“ an incredible feat. Lacking a spiritual leader and caretaker, the chapel was at risk of being burned by still un-converted Dakota braves. In 1848, the structure was dismantled, floated down the Mississippi river, rebuilt in Shakopee, and then moved again to Wabasha a year later. By the 1850s, the Little Prairie settlement had become the City of Chaska and there was renewed interest in reinvigorating a Catholic presence in the small town. Up to that point, Masses, baptisms, funerals, marriages and other sacraments had been performed in the homes of devout Catholics in the region. A growing number of Catholics began rallying for a parish church with a building. Fr. Bruno Riss, a Benedictine Father from St. Vincentâ€™s Abbey in Pennsylvania, along with several other Benedictine priests had been serving in the area without a permanent parish home. At the
urging of several founding families, Riss established Guardian Angels parish in 1858. Feeling divinely inspired, Fr. Riss placed several pictures and holy cards in the hands of two-year old Margaret Guenser. The child quickly chose the Guardian Angel picture, and so the church received her patrons and her name: The Church of the Guardian Angels. Over the next decade, the church grew quickly, moving from a location close to the site of the original log chapel, to another site on the East side of Highway 41, and finally to the location of where the church stands today. The mid-1860â€™s witnessed the large-scale establishment of Catholic schools across the United States. A rapid population increase in the Chaska area created a need for additional schools, and Guardian Angels Catholic School was opened in 1869 and for its first few years of existence was staffed by the Benedictine Sisters. By 1877, the Sisters of Christian Charity had arrived and staffed the school for the next 115 years. Originally established by the Benedictine order, leadership of the church transferred to the Order of Friars Minor (more commonly known as the Franciscans, O.F.M.) in 1876 when the Benedictineâ€™s shifted focus from founding churches to establishing colleges and hospitals. Franciscans would lead the parish for 119 years. Such a long Franciscan history has left many still-visible signs of their influence, including statues, paintings and exquisite stenciling, along with the Friary building with its many additions. The original Friary structure, built in 1868 is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the state of Minnesota. In her 153 years, the parish has faced many changes and challenges, not the least of which was a major fire in 1902, which completely gutted the church building. The faithful congregation rebuilt and restored the church, in a much more grand scale and reopened the doors one year to the date of the fire. Appropriately, Monsignor Augustin Ravoux joined the Bishop in rededicating the parish church. In 1925, a large tornado hit the Carver/Chaska area and, while not damaging the church, badly damaged the new school building, which had been constructed nine years earlier. Once again, parishioners banded together, raising funds to rebuild the damaged portion of the school and enlarged it to accommodate a recently added high school.
Building our Future Throughout history, ministry at Guardian Angels has been at the center of decisions to build, rebuild and expand. It is often said that church is more than bricks and mortar. Guardian Angels parishioners also believe this, but, more importantly, we understand that our buildings are necessary to provide space and support for the many ministries that are central to our mission to worship, teach and serve. Rebuild my Church! The Guardian Angels Catholic community has, for over a century, felt a strong connection to St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan order. While many people may be familiar with St. Francis’s affinity to animals and nature, a fascinating story exists and is, perhaps, the very thing that brought the man who would later become St. Francis to his ministry. As a young man, Francis felt a strong connection with God, but was not entirely comfortable with his father’s obsession with wealth and had begun to question whether or not he could continue to serve God and money at the same time. In his many walks around Assisi, Francis always favored a dilapidated, mostly abandoned church dedicated to San Damiano. On one of his walks, he felt an urge to pray inside the old church and, while praying before a large icon of Jesus on the Cross painted on one of the crumbling church walls, he heard the voice of Christ, “Francis, don’t you see that my house is being destroyed? Go then and rebuild it for me.” Immediately, Francis began repairing the San Damiano church, not realizing until much later that God was asking him to reform the spirit and soul of the church, not merely the bricks and mortar. Many churches, including the one of San Damiano, were repaired in the ensuing months and years during the time in which Francis was discerning God’s true message. While none of us alive today could have had the fortunate opportunity to speak to St. Francis or the many people who helped him repair those churches, there is no doubt that God still made a profound impression on these men and women who poured their blood, sweat and prayers into re-laying each brick and stone as they rebuilt the houses of worship, not to mention the epiphany that each laborer must have felt after seeing the impact of their work on the universal Church!
With our rich Franciscan heritage, it seemed only fitting that our Capital Campaign be christened, “Rebuild My Church.” Parish leadership certainly understands that God’s plan for us is not to build grand temples that stretch toward the heavens – rather, we are called to serve one another, especially in times of great personal need. We are called to teach our children about ethics and values that build strong Christian men and women. We are called to create spaces that allow people to worship, learn, and work in a space that is safe, warm and dry. We are called to preserve for future generations what our ancestors have saved for us. Serving our People All too often, one thinks of church as a “Sunday Morning” activity without giving thought to what happens on the other six days of the week. Ministry is a 24-7 endeavor that happens 365 days of the year at G.A. Besides the important work of the Liturgy, Guardian Angels prepares people for marriages and baptisms, provides counsel and comfort for families who are planning funerals and provides education for kids from preschool through eighth grade. Faith Formation is offered from cradle to grave – with little ones learning how to make their first confession and receive first communion and providing programming for older teens who are being confirmed. Young adults learn how to use the bible in their daily walk with Christ and how to improve upon their understanding of God’s Word through bible studies and special guest speakers. Parishioners reach out to those who, due to physical restrictions, cannot be part of our celebrations by offering Eucharist to those who are homebound, sending packages to those in the military, and providing a loving presence for those who might find it difficult to face another lonely or challenging day. Job coaches meet with job seekers who are unemployed and underemployed to hone skills and provide assurance. Volunteers serve as the face and hands of Jesus Christ as they answer phones, clean pews, cook meals, greet guests in the office, school and in church. These ministries are just a few of the many ways in which Guardian Angels is making an impact on our community. The list of ministries grows each and every year, as does the need for greater outreach and greater impact.
The time is now for this generation to step up Our buildings have been serving the needs of our parish and school for many decades – some reaching over 100 years in age. While incremental maintenance has helped, we have not done major repairs to some buildings for many years, and as a result, we are at risk of losing the ability to host vital ministries in our facilities. The sheer size, age and historical significance of our buildings require a sizable investment in infrastructure. Tuck-pointing, or the repairing of the brick “skin” over all of our buildings on campus, is a major undertaking and has already begun in order to stabilize the damage that has occurred over time. We also need to make a big investment to our roof structures before further, more costly damage occurs to internal spaces that they should be protecting. As we have made improvements over the past decade in our heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in the church, office, and school buildings, it has become apparent that the building window systems have outlived their useful life and each month, hundreds of dollars in energy escapes from our buildings due to drafty windows and doors. Lastly, we hope to make significant improvements to our parish kitchen located in the school. This part of the facility has been in use and largely unimproved since the mid-1950’s and needs to be upgraded in order to meet the needs of an increasing number of events held in the gymnasium space by both parish and school groups. As improvements are made, experience has taught us that we will also need to upgrade systems to meet code requirements and increased infrastructure requirements (i.e. power). These upgrades are included in the overall campaign goal of $2.4 million (approved by the Archbishop). While many of the improvements we plan to make with proceeds from the capital campaign involve infrastructure, parishioners will see immediate results and improved facilities as the repairs are made. Brick tuckpointing makes a striking visual improvement to the exterior of the buildings. Rooms will be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer when outdated windows are replaced with energy-efficient units that also bring in more natural lighting (further enhancing energy savings) and that are architecturally appropriate for our historic buildings. Roof leaks will be repaired and walls and ceilings repainted. Events held in the gymnasium, such as the Beef and Sausage Dinner, Fish Fry Fridays, AngelFest, Confirmation Breakfasts, etc. will see
improvements in the quality of food and service as we upgrade equipment and make the space a safer and more comfortable space to work, play, dine and meet. Please Give Generously We are asking each parish family to make a three-year pledge to the “Rebuild My Church” campaign. We further request that this amount be over and above each family’s current level of giving. Please prayerfully consider the sacrifice you can make in order to ensure that Guardian Angels Parish will be able to continue offering our many ministries for the next 150 years. Parish leadership understands that this campaign has a lofty goal and one that will take much effort to achieve. We take pride and humility from our ancestors who sacrificed much in order to rebuild the church, after the 1902 fire, in just one year’s time. We see the promise in the eyes of a new first communicant as she proudly processes back to her pew – the same pew where she will one day witness her children receive Eucharist for the first time. Guardian Angels has served as a place of comfort, solace and celebration for so many families for many, many years. Now it is our turn to show future generations how much our church, our faith, our future means to us. At the back of church this weekend, you will find a “Rebuild My Church” packet that has been prepared especially for your family. Please give generously to the campaign. Our future depends upon your prayerful discernment of the sacrifice that you can make for the current and future generations who call Guardian Angels our spiritual home. Thank you!