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FLINT, MI–On Sunday, Jan. 17, Father Paul Donnelly of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Flint announced on Facebook the church’s checking account had only $24 in it.
For churches like OLOG who rely heavily on weekly offerings from their congregation, the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating. A year of mostly empty pews Sunday after Sunday has had a large impact on the church’s economic stability.
Upon learning about the state of OLOG’s finances, members of the church’s congregation past and present, as well as the community as a whole, sprung into action.
The same day Donnelly made the announcement, Rebeca Anderson started a fundraiser via GoFundMe to raise money for the church. A real estate agent in the area, Anderson said the idea to start a fundraiser for the church came from her parents and her uncle, all of whom have been lifelong members of the church.
According to Anderson, her step-father said to her “this is your grandparents’ church, your parents’ church … this church has been around for so long and has done so much for the Hispanic community … you really need to get involved.”
To her, OLOG has been almost like a part of her family. A Flint native, Anderson grew up speaking English. According to her, going to 9 a.m. mass in Spanish with her grandmother is what got her familiarized with her family’s native tongue.
“I didn’t know Spanish when I was growing up. It was so monumental to me because I learned the mass in Spanish … I would go and I would know the songs, the prayers,” she said. “I think (OLOG) taught me a lot about my heritage, it taught me about el Dia De Los Muertos, Our Lady of Guadalupe … they really incorporated a lot of Hispanic culture.”
In order to honor both her parent’s wishes as well as the church itself, she decided to start the fundraiser herself.
Anderson set out to raise $8000 for the church. In less than three weeks, she met that goal and presented the money to the church during Sunday Mass. According to the fundraiser’s website, $6970 were raised online while approximately another $2000 was donated by check. There were over 60 donations made with some being for as much as $1000.
At first, Anderson said she didn’t know what to expect. “I was like, ‘I hope we get something.’” she said. Not having high hopes at first, Anderson and her family reached out to friends and coworkers to see if they were interested in donating. Though many were not affiliated with the church, Anderson said after explaining the church’s history and impact on her and her community, many friends were quick to write a check.
Donnelly says he was happy to receive the money. As he explains it, the church has been running at a deficit during the majority of the last year. Regular monthly expenses as well as debts still being paid for the construction of the San Juan Diego Activity Center have slowly been eating away at the church’s checking account. According to Donnelly, the church was eventually forced to pull money out of its savings account to continue operating.
“We’re grateful that since then, a few friends of the church have been able to work together to raise funds for the church,” Donnelly said.
Despite the over $8000 being much needed, Donnelly said unless congregants are able to come to church again and give money on a weekly basis, the financial troubles OLOG and churches all over the world face will continue.
“In my opinion, (financial issues) are not unique to this church at all. There will be many churches especially that have a smaller budget … that will be at risk of closing forever without in person attendance and in person giving or ultimately shifting to an online platform,” Donnelly said.
For now, however, Donnelly says he doesn’t want the community to worry. “The Lord always provides enough,” he said. “We simply need our members to donate what they’re able to donate and that will be enough.”