St. Paul Church in Onaway, Michigan is home to 168 faithful Catholic families. The next closest Catholic parish is 25 miles to the east or 30 miles to the north, so St. Paul Church serves as the spiritual home for a large geographic area where Michigan residents who worked in Detroit frequently retire. As such, the parish community is older, with few young families and only three First Communion recipients this past year.
"This church is more like a family," parishioner Don Libby said. "We share our good times and our grief. This church was here for me when my wife passed away."
Fr. Peter Eke, St. Paul's pastor, said the parishioners are dedicated to their church and willing to do whatever they can to sustain it with their time, talent and treasure.
The parish's beautiful church, constructed in 1951, was in need of physical repairs and restoration after more than 60 years of service. This area of Michigan was hit particularly hard by the economic downturn, but parishioners still gave what they could to replace the church's numerous stained glass windows.
"This is a tremendously giving community," Fr. Eke said. "For a small church to do a restoration is a true sacrifice for its parishioners."
As these funds stretched the parish to its financial limits, St. Paul Church approached Catholic Extension about a challenge grant to complete masonry preservation on the church building itself. Catholic Extension was able to provide a $15,000 matching grant and the reconstruction work was recently completed.
"We proved we wanted to support our church, and with support from Catholic Extension, we helped save our parish that was crumbling," said parishioner Sally Shear.
"Small churches are the backbone of this country."
See the photos below to witness the beautiful finished product.
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