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Published: Saturday, 8/23/2014 - Updated: 10 months ago

Helping Hands: Maumee parish building church in Philippines

BY TK BARGER
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
St. Joseph Maumee parish representative John Hoover, left, and Father Keith Stripe demonstrate the Mano Pa, a Philippine blessing. St. Joseph Maumee parish representative John Hoover, left, and Father Keith Stripe demonstrate the Mano Pa, a Philippine blessing.
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St. Joseph Parish in Maumee is building a new church halfway around the world.

After Typhoon Haiyan caused enormous devastation and more than 6,000 deaths in the Philippines in November, the Rev. Keith Stripe, who is the parish priest, and members of St. Joseph stepped up to respond, and they started the Carpenter Outreach Project. “It's called Carpenter Outreach Project because St. Joseph was a carpenter,” Father Stripe said, “and the parish has a long history of reaching out.”

For the next three years, the parish will raise funds and send volunteers on an annual service trip to Tugbong, a district in the municipality of Kananga on the Filipino island of Leyte.

“This is pretty much the epicenter of the storm, and it was the strongest ever to hit land,” Father Stripe said. After the storm, he had received a call from a parishioner who is from the Philippines—there are about 12 Filipino familes at St. Joseph, Father Stripe said—who asked if the parish could help.

One of the people Father Stripe called is a doctor who makes mission trips, and the doctor said he was leaving for the Philippines in two days. “I said to him, 'Would you ever consider taking a Catholic priest along,' knowing that the majority of the population's Catholic. … Long story short, an hour later I had a ticket, I'm on my way.”

Father Stripe went, helped at health clinics, and returned to Maumee, then “two weeks later I'm back on a plane, gone with him again.”

The Rev. Irwin P. Gavilo and the Rev. Keith Stripe distributing Communion at Mass at St. john the Baptizer, Tugbong. The Rev. Irwin P. Gavilo and the Rev. Keith Stripe distributing Communion at Mass at St. john the Baptizer, Tugbong.
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After that return to America, he contacted Catholic officials in the Philippines and asked if St. Joseph could sponsor a parish, and he was put in contact with the Rev. Irwin Gavilo, priest of St. John the Baptizer Mission Station in Tugbong, about 50 kilometers inland, a two-hour drive from the coastal city of Tacloban. The population there is about 16,000, and 12,000 are Catholic.

Father Gavilo's mission station “actually serves eight little villages around,” Father Stripe said, “and the priest goes out to these little villages and each little village has a chapel. Those are all decked, too.”

In Maumee Father Stripe talked to John Hoover, who now serves as parish representative for the Carpenter Outreach Project in addition to his career in marketing with the Andersons, and Mr. Hoover soon accompanied Father Stripe on a trip to Tugbong to arrange the project. They took $20,000 to donate and eight Army duffel bags full of flip flops and hygiene kits. “It was almost a shock that somebody from halfway around the world would show up on their doorstep there” to help, Mr. Hoover said.

The Maumee parish leaders were in full support of helping in the Philippines; in the Archdiocese of Palo, 70 of the 76 churches, including St. John the Baptizer, had been destroyed.

Tugbong children showing their new flip flops received from Father Stripe and Mr. Hoover. Tugbong children showing their new flip flops received from Father Stripe and Mr. Hoover.
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To rebuild St. John would cost $110,000. With a three-year project, Father Keith said, it would be easy to raise the money; about six months in, $53,000 has already come. The parish also hopes to rebuild the eight chapels by dedicating twice-yearly collection plate tithes to that purpose.

To raise funds immediately, the Carpenter Outreach Project is hosting an event at Manhattan's Restaurant, 1516 Adams St., from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday for $25 a person featuring “heavy grazing” prepared by the chef, who “has come up with a number of Filipino dishes that he's going to serve, including trying to get hold of chicken feet so we can taste those, which are actually pretty good,” Father Stripe said.

Some of Manhattan's popular plates will also be available, and there will be a cash bar. Tickets are available via carpenteroutreachprojecttugbong/eventbrite.com or at the door.

Then on Sept. 20 at a private residence, a Philippines-style pig roast will be held. Tickets are $10 and available from the parish office (419-893-4848).

About 15 parishioners will make St. Joseph‘‍s first service trip to Tugbong in April; they'll pay their own way, assuring that 100 percent of all money raised goes to Tugbong.

There is also a memento-oriented fund-raiser in the works. Mr. Hoover had the idea that youth in Tugbong could make Christmas ornaments, which would be sold at St. Joseph. They plan to make 400 and sell them for $25 each, starting a cottage industry, Father Stripe said, that will generate $10,000.

Right now, workers on St John the Baptizer in Tugbong “are building one shovel at a time,” Father Stripe said. “They go down to the river, they get the sand, they haul it up a bag at a time, mixing the concrete, hand-digging the footers, making their own cement blocks.”

When the three-year project has ended, the plan is for Carpenter Outreach to continue with a new project, as well as continuing a church relationship in Tugbong.

Contact TK Barger @ tkbarger@theblade.com, 419-724-6278 or on Twitter @TK_Barger.


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