Early Christmas gift comes to O'Neill parish
By Brian Fuchser
The Catholic Voice
Parishioners at St. Patrick Church in O'Neill were treated with an early Christmas present this year, and some hope it will be a gift that keeps on giving.
A St. Patrick family donated about $100,000 to the parish before Thanksgiving. The donors, who asked to remain anonymous, requested the money be used to pay off the parish debt, which stood at about $89,000, with the remainder going to other needs.
St. Patrick Business Manager Alice Marx said the gift erased the parish debt as well as the debt of St. Mary Elementary School and St. Mary Junior/Senior High School, which are operated by the parish.
"It's a great thing for the parish and the schools," she said. "It's wonderful that there are people out there who will support us this way."
Father Francis Nigli, pastor, said the donation has allowed parishioners to begin the new church year in a comfortable position.
"My heart rejoices in the goodness of God. It's been a great Christmas gift for me," Father Nigli said. "We can enter the new year on solid ground. It was really a God-given moment to let them (parishioners) know that God hasn't forgotten them."
Father Nigli said the donation was not an endowment, but was given "to give thanks to God for blessings they (the donors) received."
"It had to do with goodness, bottom line."
Although the cancellation of the parish's debt is a great gift, Father Nigli hopes something even greater comes about because of the family's generosity.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for us to see a God gift, but also for us to do our part to multiply this gift," he said. "I want it to be something that can be a legacy to carry forward."
Father Nigli said he hopes the aftermath of the family's generosity will still be felt around Christmas and will increase gift-giving.
"From the point of stewardship, it says a lot 'Lord, I've received much, so I want to give much.' There's enough to go around, it's just a matter of people wanting to give thanks to God," he said. "They (the donors) thought we could build ourselves up with it as a springboard."
Judy Tamisiea, executive director of the Office of Stewardship and Development for the Archdiocese of Omaha, called the gift "great news" and "inspiring."
"I hope it will inspire others to do what they can do, not more than they can do, but what they can do," she said. "I would hope this would inspire people to look realistically at their own gifts and reflect on how they can use their own gifts."
Like Father Nigli and Tamisiea, two parishioners at St. Patrick also see the donation as an example to be followed.
"It's awfully nice as a parish and school community when we see someone step up to the plate like this. We see that it is important to sacrifice," said M.J. Kersenbrock, a member of St. Patrick's finance council. "To me the biggest plus is if other people can see there are folks willing to share their gifts."
Kersenbrock said it is "great to see someone taking stewardship seriously.""We need to look at that model," he said. "If we all gave and sacrificed a little bit more, according to our ability, there wouldn't be any financial problem."
Shelly Lindhorst, secretary at St. Patrick, said she hopes parishioners will work together to keep the parish in the black.
"It was a wonderful gift for our parish," she said. "Their generosity is a wonderful example for us to follow and hopefully we will take up their example and keep our parish debt free."
Whatever results from the family's generosity, Father Nigli is sure of one thing … God will be involved
"It was a reinforcement of faith," he said. "Most things happen by God's Grace. I just happened to be there to receive it on behalf of the people. The Lord's smiling on them in this."