For more than 100 years, St. Bridget Catholic Church has strived to fulfill its mission to be the welcoming presence of Christ on the north side of Minneapolis. Recently, parish members took steps to carry on that mission for the next 100 years. Income from the newly established St. Bridget Endowment Fund at the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota (CCF) will provide the financial stability needed to ensure St. Bridget’s ministry and community outreach continue on in perpetuity.
Deacon Rich Heineman, who grew up in the parish and has served as its deacon since 2002, points out that while the neighborhood has changed over the years, St. Bridget’s commitment to its neighbors hasn’t. “The majority of people in the neighborhood are no longer Catholic, but they are good people,” says Deacon Rich. “The endowment allows us to use our resources for the betterment of our community.”
Leveraging Resources to Grow the Parish
The parish has begun to discern how income from the endowment earmarked for community outreach should be used. One idea is to partner with other Northside nonprofits. St. Bridget already has working relationships with several community organizations, including EMERGE, a nonprofit that provides skill-building, employment, and economic opportunities for Northside residents. The parish also supports Sojourner Truth Academy, a K-8 charter school located on the parish campus, and Hamilton Manor, a nearby public housing high-rise for older adults.
In 1997, as a new resident in North Minneapolis, Jennifer Kaplan joined St. Bridget after being bowled over by the welcome she received as a visitor.
Now a parish trustee, she thinks outreach funded by the endowment will raise St. Bridget’s profile in the community, which will translate into new members. “I really believe that the more we as a parish get out in the community, the more people will want to join us,” Jennifer says. “We want everyone on the Northside to feel like they are welcome here.”
Taking the Church into the Community
St. Bridget had already established the endowment when Father Marcel Okwara became parochial administrator last summer, but Father Okwara has been impressed by the parishioners’ intentional approach as they consider how to steward the funds. “This is a call,” he says. “By taking the Church outside of the building, we are fulfilling the mission of the Church. We don’t want to just talk about serving Christ. We want to live it out.”
Deacon Rich believes carrying out the mission of St. Bridget has the potential to build a more unified Northside community. “The membership of our parish is mostly white in an area where that’s not the dominant culture,” explains Deacon Rich. “There are language barriers and economic barriers, but none of them are insurmountable — as long as we let God lead us.”
As parish leaders decide how to best steward the resources of the parish, they seek to balance St. Bridget’s rich history with their plans for the future. “We have wonderful traditions, and we’re open to new ideas,” Jennifer says. “The endowment has energized people to reach out to other communities and be open to something new.”