By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross
Holy Spirit Church in Virginia has earned a reputation for generosity in recent years, in part through its participation in the Best Christmas Ever Movement, which last year, for instance, saw the parish provide stable housing in Duluth for a family in need.
|Parishioners from Holy Spirit in Virginia load supplies in Minnesota and unload them Florida to provide relief from Hurricane Ian. (Submitted photo)|
Father Brandon Moravitz, the parish pastor, said that the Best Christmas Ever connection led to the parish’s latest adventure in generosity. The organization’s founder had put Father Moravitz in contact with a Catholic man in Florida named Pat, who wanted to start doing something similar in his own parish.
Father Brandon said he didn’t think much more of it until the deadly Hurricane Ian hit Florida, and he got a call from Pat, this time asking for material help.
The call coincided with the Color Run in Virginia, a major annual celebration and fundraiser for the parish’s school, Marquette School. Father Moravitz said they quickly got word out that this year’s Color Run would be tied in to support for those in need in Florida. They alerted other parishes on the Iron Range. The Chamber of Commerce in town got word. A drop-off station was set up at the Color Run.
The end result? “Three massive 30-foot trailers” filled with new generators, sanitation supplies, nonperishable food, diapers, and more.
“There was one that was just full of water, bottled water,” Father Moravitz said.
In addition to that support, the effort raised about $10,000 in funds. The donations came not only from the church but from the wider community in Virginia and from other parishes, such as St. Anthony in Ely.
Then there was the question of getting it down to Florida. Father Moravitz said that three men from the parish drove it all down, but there was initially a challenge finding a good “landing spot” where they could drop off the supplies. Pat had called asking if Father Moravitz could connect the two bishops to try to clear a way. When Father Moravitz contacted Bishop Daniel Felton, he learned the two bishops already knew each other. Both had served as priests of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
“It couldn’t have been any easier,” Father Moravitz said.
The men drove down, unloaded, helped at ground level, then worked their way back to Minnesota. The whole thing happened in the space of about 72 hours.
“We were one of the first groups that got down there right after the hurricane,” Father Moravitz said.
He noted that the the blessings went beyond just the material support, engaging parishioners like the drivers who were moved by it and the man down in Florida who was full of gratitude and had his faith reinvigorated.
A culture of generosity
Father Moravitz said the aid to Florida is an example of a culture of generosity the parish is trying to build, grounded in the idea that generosity inspires generosity and that generosity in prayer should inspire generosity in action.
The pastor said he leans on his staff in these situations. Sometimes, in a case like this, it happens quickly, which can be difficult. But it’s what Father Moravitz describes as a “strategic trust in the Spirit.” He often sees people with different charisms rise up and take leadership roles. It’s not the same people doing things every time. It’s not always a committee, and it doesn’t always involve “over-planning,” which he said can lead to “our humanity” getting in the way of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes the inspiration is small. It may be a post from a community member on social media needing a snowblower. It may be regularly serving meals at the Salvation Army. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was directing support to a different struggling business each day.
“I could tell you 50 stories,” Father Moravitz said.
But the end result, he said, has been “so much joy and unity,” and it has brought people into RCIA and into the church, people whose “hearts are won through charity.”
It has also built bridges within the community. Even secular organizations now know they can call the parish for volunteers.
“I love rallying people to mission,” Father Moravitz said. “Somehow it’s just bearing fruit.”