The Upon This Rock committee presented its first emergency grant to Assumption Parish in, appropriately enough, Black Rock. The $20,000 grant will go to replacing a much-needed furnace used by the century-old church and the adjacent Our Lady of Black Rock School.
Upon This Rock is a strategic initiative designed to help parishes, schools and other Catholic institutions meet the needs of their communities. Bishop Richard J. Malone formally announced the five-year, $100 million capital campaign in February 2016, with a goal of helping "those we serve," "those who serve" and "how we serve."
Assumption's old furnace had been declared "not worth fixing again" by the diocesan department of Buildings and Properties, as well as the regular maintenance firm, TRI-R Mechanical. Nearly $3,000 had been spent repairing the backup furnace, which dates back to the 1960s. The total cost of a replacement was measured to be $84,190. The parish had already received back 35 percent of the funds it raised for the Upon This Rock campaign, and had a moderate preservation fund collected for emergencies. Our Lady of Black Rock also contributed, as the furnace heats the school as well.
The parish first sought $25,000 from the Our Lady of Black Rock School Board. Paul Kostyniak, one of the board members, knew of the Upon This Rock emergency fund from his wife, Carol, who served as secretary for education for the diocese for 10 years, working in the same offices as Upon This Rock. It was Carol Kostyniak who wrote the grant request.
"She, without really saying too much to me, picked up the ball, looked at what the requirements were for the grant, and started putting the elements of her study together for that," explained Father Richard Jedrzejewski, pastor of Assumption.
"I knew Upon This Rock had set aside a certain amount of money to help poorer parishes," added Paul Kostyniak. "Carol was instrumental in getting that idea across when they were developing Upon This Rock. I thought this was a reasonable approach, and Carol took the reins."
Upon This Rock uses interest from the money raised in the capital campaign to support various initiatives, with certain percentages earmarked for STREAM projects, Catechesis and evangelization, tuition assistance for high schools and elementary schools, campus ministry, health care costs for retired priests, and communication and technology, as well as permanent endowments for Christ the King Seminary and Catholic Charities.
"We allocated 5 percent of Upon This Rock proceeds to an emergency fund for parishes that had situations like this - a boiler that broke down, a roof that blew off - and where they had the inability to cover the cost from their own congregation," said Richard Suchan, executive director of the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, which oversees the funds.
This is the first emergency grant presented. Grant requests are examined three times a year by a grants committee.
"We look at the need of the parish," explained Kellie Ulrich, grant program officer. "Is this a parish that despite its best efforts is really unable to come up with the funding, given the demographics? We look at have they done their best to raise money to help contribute to it, so that we're only providing them a portion of it, which is true in this case. Then we look at the project itself. Was it something that would really have an impact and is a need? In this case, they had done everything they could to rehabilitate (the furnace) and just had to put in a new system."
The new furnace was already up and running, just in time to meet the first snowfall of the season.
Founded for Polish immigrants, Assumption Parish now serves an immigrant population of Burmese and Sudanese refugees. The parish offers a Saturday Soup kitchen and opens its doors to community groups, such as the Boys and Girls Club.
"We try to stay linked with as many groups as we can who help us from the outside," Father Jedrzejewski said. "We're not growing. We're an inner-city parish. I'm well known for spending money I don't have, then worry about it later. It always seems to come."