Published December 22, 2005
Our Lady of the Americas Mission this year could only accept some 700 children in its religious education program and had to turn hundreds more away due to the lack of space in their converted warehouse church facility.
So when Father Fernando Molina-Restrepo was assigned to the mission this summer, he immediately knew what he needed to do: formally launch a capital campaign to raise money to move out of the dilapidated warehouse and into a new church.
“The crowds are unbelievable. We don’t know where to put them. We don’t have parking spaces. We use MARTA, but we’ve had several problems with them. This is not a church; it’s a warehouse. We have thousands of children. We couldn’t register more than 700 on a first-come, first-serve basis. We don’t have enough space to educate them. We divide space into little corners and try to teach them. It’s almost impossible to continue the work of evangelization,” said Father Molina-Restrepo, who had previously served at Christ Our King and Savior Church in Greensboro, where he helped to complete its church construction project. The mission is unable to provide more social services due to lack of space, he said, while “many organizations want to serve here.”
One example, he noted, is Saint Joseph’s Mercy Care, which has had to withdraw health care services due to space limitations. Our Lady of the Americas, a mission of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Atlanta, now offers basic services including computer and English classes and referrals and haircuts. The Colombian priest also says another full-time priest is needed to help him serve the mission’s estimated 6,000 members.
The capital campaign was launched Sept. 8 in Spanish and Nov. 18 in English, when they explained to Hispanic and Anglo community leaders the goal and asked for support. The mission holds at least one fundraiser a month, as it’s important to get the community involved and take ownership of the initiative, he said. Mission leaders hope to speak throughout the archdiocese next year, as they can’t move forward without funds. The priest hopes it doesn’t take years. “We will go in God’s time, but it’s very difficult.”
Father Molina-Restrepo believes Our Lady of Guadalupe draws many to the mission, which is made up of immigrants, largely from Mexico and Central America, but also from across South America.
“For them this is a sanctuary and their home where they feel completely welcomed in their own language and culture, plus it provides so many services and helps the people. It’s like coming home to a place where you can taste a bit of your own culture and roots and, because of that, people come from all over the archdiocese to visit Our Lady of the Americas and they feel at home,” he said.
“We’re in a tremendously chaotic situation with all these Catholics and we have to try to have a place to evangelize them and bring the sacraments to them. All the denominations are doing it, and we have to do it. It’s overpowering. We don’t have that much income. Our population, they don’t have income to build this. I have to tell their story to everyone. We have to get this money to build this and it’s critical.”
To make a donation, send a check, payable to Misión Católica, projecto construción, to Our Lady of the Americas Mission, 5918 New Peachtree Road, Doraville, GA 30340.