Holy Spirit comes through for St. Jane de Chantal

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, February 9, 2014

Never doubt the power of the Holy Spirit. And never doubt the power of prayer — especially sustained prayer, by many people — to invoke the power of the Holy Spirit.

That, said Father Edward Cronin, is the lesson he took from the gift St. Jane de Chantal Parish, 5252 S. Austin Ave., received this Christmas season.

But it started before Christmas, nine days before, as the parish began a novena to pray for two intentions: the success of the To Teach Who Christ Is campaign, which was kicked off at St. Jane de Chantal this month, and to be able to minister to people who have left the church and help them find their way back.

The novena got a good response from parishioners, Cronin said. Two hundred of the novena prayer books were taken home, and presumably used. So on that count, he considered it a success.

Then, two days after Christmas, a man showed up at the parish. He introduced himself as the brother of a late parishioner, Thomas Bonk, who died last year, and said he had a donation for the parish in memory of his brother.

Cronin was touched, he said, and sat and reminisced with the brother for a while. Thomas Bonk had been active and well known in the parish, and it was well worth the time to share memories with his brother.

Then the man encouraged him to open the envelope.

“I was expecting maybe a couple of hundred dollars,” Cronin said. “When I opened it, I about fell off my chair.”

In the envelope was a check for $50,000.

Fifty thousand dollars is the exact amount for the top gift the parish’s fundraising campaign called for. It was the one gift Cronin didn’t think they could get.

“When they (consultants from O’Meara Ferguson, who are helping coordinate the To Teach Who Christ Is campaign) showed me what we need, it called for one $50,000 donation, and I said, ‘Are you crazy?’ Do you think anybody here has $50,000?’” he said. “This is the one gift no one thought we could get.”

But two days after the novena ended, someone gave the parish the money.

“I took it as the Holy Spirit.”

As Cronin continued the conversation, he asked the man what parish he belonged to. He said he didn’t go to church anymore, he’d kind of fallen away from it.

“He looked kind of sorrowful about it. I told him we’d been praying for him to come back, and I told him to go to his local parish and register,” Cronin said. “I don’t know if he did. But we’re inviting him and his sister this spring when we put in a memorial brick for his brother.”

The parish still has $461,000 to raise to meet its $511,000 goal for To Teach Who Christ Is, Cronin acknowledged, but it started the formal campaign with its largest gift already in the bank.

To Teach Who Christ Is is a $350 million campaign being run in every parish in the archdiocese. Each parish keeps 60 percent of what it raises for its own capital needs. At St. Jane de Chantal, that includes a new boiler, handicapped-accessible bathrooms and an upgrade to the computer system that controls the school’s HVAC system, made necessary by soundproofing to quiet the sounds of air traffic from nearby Midway International Airport. Anything left will go toward resurfacing the parking lot.

The archdiocese plans to use the proceeds to strengthen Catholic education, including $150 million for scholarships, as well as money to strengthen academic programs, improve religious education and make some capital improvements.

Cronin said some parishioners have wondered whether it makes sense to use the $50,000 toward To Teach Who Christ Is, since that means 40 percent of the money will go to the archdiocese but he doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s not like we’re taking this money and sending it away,” he said. “We’re investing in our Catholic schools, to make them stronger, and the benefits will come back to us.”

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  • novena
  • st. jane de chantal parish

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