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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Growing a Parish Community
Fr. Patrick Corrigan LC discusses the fruits of his church building project in Mexico

Fr. Patrick Corrigan and his building project
Fr. Patrick Corrigan LC and friends

Fr. Patrick Corrigan LC, ordained in Rome, Italy, on November 1, 1970, has worked in Mexico for 43 years.  He has served on the Isla Mujeres at Immaculate Conception parish, and in Bacalar, where he oversaw 52 local communities, including the poor refugees of the civil war raging in Guatemala at the time.  He is now assigned to Chetumal, in the state of Quintana Roo, south of Cancún.

Fr. Patrick is a parish priest of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Church, but he is also in charge of the economy and chancellery of the local diocese and is director of the boys and girls section of the Regnum Christi and director of the Christian doctrine organization.

In his “spare time” he manages the construction of a new parish church called "Saint Joseph the Worker" (San José Obrero).

Following, Fr. Corrigan tells us about his parish work and the new building project.

How did you come to be in charge of building the church?

There are few priests to serve in our area, and the local priests agreed that the established parish (Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) would take on this added responsibility to our already full program.

Because I am overseeing the new housing estate and I was able to acquire sufficient land for a new church, the bishop invited me to take charge of building the church and the pastoral activity thereof.

How did the project begin?

Our first efforts were to get the people together to make a shaded area to protect the community from the sun and the rain.  Some men arranged eight posts, strong enough to sustain a Mayan-fabricated thatched roof. They did an excellent job, might I say.

Sometime later, however, a cyclone destroyed this magnificent contribution. (That group of faithful men also assisted at the Masses while I celebrated under a tree.) After that ordeal, the thatched roof system was replaced with a tar macadam version.

How are things progressing thus far?

Thanks to the help of an architect, I had a general plan made for the land and the smaller facilities and buildings.  I knew that to round up the amount of money was going to take many years.

I have been at the church for seventeen years looking for ways to finish the project. I celebrate Mass on Sundays on the ground story, which is supposed to be classroom space, but because of the space required for the Mass, these are not yet completed.

The faithful help out by giving donations, taking up collections, holding raffles, dinner-dances, breakfast get-togethers, selling food rations in the make-shift kitchens on Sundays after Mass and sometimes in the evenings.

The most difficult phase of the building project has been the roof. With the contributions of so many generous people, we´ll go as far as we can.  The estimated cost for finishing the church is $186,000 dollars, including the roof, walls, floor and all the little details included.

Has this project benefited the local parish?

When we considered the length of time it would
Putting on the roof in Mexico parish
Putting up the roof of San José Obrero.
take to get the money together and then to build, we left planning the Church to last, so that we could form the community first.

We knew the actual physical construction of the building would make more sense for the faithful if it was filled with men and women who will give the new structure life and reason.

I had expressed my desire for groups in the parish to extend their activities to this added section of the parish, with the hope of adding new members to each of these groups as an extended part of the new church.

The response was immediate. Each group sent representation, including Christian doctrine teachers, the Legion of Mary, Regnum Christi boys and girls, renewal in the Holy Spirit, acolytes, choirs and more. There has been a steady rise in numbers week after week.

As time went by, the additional members have needed more and space for each group -- bathroom facilities, wood planks for the choirs and others to sit on.  An inspired and enthusiastic group of ladies from Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe parish came together to create a makeshift kitchen and help wherever they perceived a need at the parish.

So far our work has helped to stimulate communication and confidence between everyone involved. Parents were interested in preparing their children for the First Holy Communion. Others wanted to support a greater Church presence as a course of action against the various evangelical groups sprouting up here and there amidst the Catholic community.       
The pastoral plan has definitely produced its spiritual fruits.

Thanks for your hard work,
The patron of  San José Obrero
The patron of San José Obrero
Fr. Corrigan!  You and your parish are in our prayers!

To follow his work, click here for Father´s Facebook page.



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