With the blessing of Lexington Bishop John Stowe, construction started Wednesday on a Habitat for Humanity home on McCullough Drive that is being built in honor of Pope Francis.
"We are very humbled and grateful for Pope Francis and his leadership, and that he wants to call attention to these wonderful Catholic communities across the nation," said Dana Stefaniak, resource development director for Lexington Habitat for Humanity.
The build — known as the Catholic Build — is organized by Lexington's Catholic community, which has built 25 houses in the 24 years the Lexington Habitat chapter has existed.
"Very few organizations can claim that kind of continued dedication to this mission," said Lexington Habitat for Humanity project manager Tom Little, speaking to a crowd of about 50 at the ceremony Wednesday morning.
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The Catholic Build includes Catholic and non-Catholic volunteers.
Little said organizers hope construction will be completed in time for Thanksgiving.
Typically, Habitat for Humanity will raise half the money for a house, and the Catholic parishes, working with the family through the Catholic Build program, will raise the other half. For this home, Lexington Habitat got $60,000 from an anonymous donor, which, coupled with the money raised by Catholic Build, will cover the cost of the home.
The donor of this Catholic Build donated the $60,000 as a match for the Catholic parishes' funds on the condition that the building would be dedicated to Pope Francis, said Stefaniak. This same donor has made numerous donations to similar programs building houses across the country, she added.
"I knew that our leadership team would be excited to build something in honor of Pope Francis because he has given the entire world a sense of what it means to serve," said Little, adding that the donor also gave on the condition that volunteers would include students from the University of Kentucky and Lexington Catholic High School.
"They bring a level of energy and excitement to every build," Little said of the students.
The four-bedroom home will go to Maria Robles of Lexington and her four children. Born in Mexico, Robles has lived in Lexington for 15 years and has been active at St. Paul Catholic Church. She and her family have moved three times in the past five years.
"This is all for my kids," Robles said. "I'm so thankful (that) God gave me the opportunity to give me a house."
Added Stowe: "It's so easy to throw up our hands when we see the difficulty, the poverty, the situations that seem helpless and hopeless for so many people. We have a great tradition though of helping people where we can."