Earthquake levels church, All Saints parish helps rebuild it

| September 10, 2014 | 0 Comments
From left, Bishop Lee Piché, Deacon George Nugent, Bishop Gabriel Malzaire and Father Godfrey Tarimo visit at a picnic Sept. 7 at the home of Charlene and Duane Breid of All Saints in Lakeville. Bishop Malzaire and Father Tarimo came to Minnesota to say thanks to parishioners at All Saints for the money they donated to help rebuild St. Andrew Church in Dominica after it was leveled by an earthquake in 2004. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

From left, Bishop Lee Piché, Deacon George Nugent, Bishop Gabriel Malzaire and Father Godfrey Tarimo visit at a picnic Sept. 7 at the home of Charlene and Duane Breid of All Saints in Lakeville. Bishop Malzaire and Father Tarimo came to Minnesota to say thanks to parishioners at All Saints for the money they donated to help rebuild St. Andrew Church in Dominica after it was leveled by an earthquake in 2004. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

It all started on a plane ride back from the Caribbean island country of Dominica.

Deacon George Nugent of All Saints in Lakeville was flying back with a handful of other parishioners during the winter of 2005.

They had gone to Dominica on a parish mission trip to serve the poor.

What they saw while there made a lasting impression, one that remains vivid to this day.

“We went down to build houses,” said Deacon Nugent, who had gone to the region individually before that trip. “Our group goes down to build three simple little homes for the people in Dominica. We happened to be there shortly after — just within three months after — the earthquake [in 2004]. And, we drove by [the areas devastated by it]. Things start to roll around in your head about what can we do about this.”

The earthquake leveled the church of St. Andrew in the Diocese of Roseau. Knowing that the poor of that region would never be able to come up with the funds to build a new church, Deacon Nugent wondered if it was time for All Saints to act.

“We said, ‘What are we going to do about this? What is God asking us to do?’” Deacon Nugent recalled. “So, we kicked around lots of ideas and suggestions.”

They came up with one simple idea — money. Shortly after returning home, they got a special collection authorized for every other month. Then, when then-Father Lee Piché became pastor, he bumped it up to every month.

A steady stream of monthly collections ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 added up to a grand total of about $275,000, which covered almost half of the cost of the new building. Deacon Nugent and other parish volunteers, who kept going to Dominica every year, went down for the church dedication on Jan. 30, 2013.

On the weekend of Sept. 6 and 7, it was time for payback. Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of the Diocese of Roseau and Father Godfrey Tarimo, pastor of St. Andrew, came to Minnesota to say thanks to the people of All Saints. They were at all weekend Masses and made sure to deliver a strong message to the many people who have contributed over the last nine years.

Then, the two men attended a picnic on Sunday afternoon at the home of Charlene and Duane Breid, who were part of that first All Saints group to travel to Dominica, and have been on every annual trip since.

For Bishop Malzaire, it was his third trip to the Twin Cities since his assignment to the diocese 12 years ago.

“I recall when I went to All Saints the first time, I think they had a debt of about $6 million from the church [construction project],” he said. “I think the question was asked, ‘We have this debt to pay, why add something else?’ And, I remember the statement was made by someone, ‘If we are able to help another person, we will be able to pay our own debts.’ I thought that was marvelous.”

Bishop Piché also came to the picnic and heard the full report of what the parish had accomplished in the years since his departure in 2008.

“I just marvel at the wonderful response from all the parishioners and their generosity in supporting these projects and the desire to get to know the bishop and the people and the clergy from the [Roseau] diocese,” Bishop Piché said. “We don’t have a lot of our people who have gone down there, but the ones who have, they keep wanting to go [back].”

The loyal All Saints parishioners who continue to serve the people of Dominica do so as part of a larger relief organization called Good News Project, started by a Catholic couple in Wausau, Wis., Peggy and Chuck MacCarthy. They also were at the picnic to greet Bishop Malzaire and Father Tarimo.

“Nobody turns down George Nugent,” Peggy said with a laugh, when asked for her take on the success of All Saints’ fundraising for St. Andrew. “It’s a fantastic church, and George is a great leader.”
Bishop Piché agreed.

“I let Deacon George do the promoting,” Bishop Piché said. “I remember one year in particular, he put on the floor in our gathering space the dimensions of one of the houses, the size of a typical house that he would build.”

Today, those plans have come to fruition, thanks not only to Deacon Nugent, but also to the hands and dollars of members of All Saints, added to the efforts of the Good News Project.

“We have a great community at All Saints church, a lot of outreach programs that go on,” Deacon Nugent said. “There are people who are willing to sponsor the outreach. They understand the significance of being able to reach out to people that are poor, people that are in need of housing, in need of a church. . . . I think that they are very, very proud of what has happened.”

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