Remembering Christ’s call at 25th anniversary of Bethlehem Project founding
By Jerry Zufelt
Special to The Catholic Accent
GREENSBURG — As The Bethlehem Project gathered to remember and celebrate its 25 years as a housing ministry of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish, Helene Paharik, one of the founding leaders of the project, said that one of the driving forces behind the formation of the ministry was remembering who we are as Christians.
Because of the many people in need coming to the cathedral office, Paharik said, “We were reminded of who we are as Christians and reminded of Jesus’ command to serve people in need.”
More than 100 people gathered Sept. 20 at Rizzo’s Malabar Inn, Crabtree, to celebrate The Bethlehem Project’s 25 years of working to prevent homelessness in central Westmoreland County by thanking volunteers and donors who have helped the ministry provide almost $1 million to nearly 3,000 individuals and families with housing needs.
Proceeds from the dinner, a silent auction and basket raffles generated more than $12,000 to help individuals and families in need.
The featured speakers were Bishop Larry J. Kulick, the guest of honor, and Paharik.
Suzanne English, president of The Bethlehem Project Advisory Board, served as emcee. She thanked the pastors and rectors of the cathedral — Monsignor Michael J. Begolly, Monsignor Roger A. Statnick and current rector Monsignor Raymond E. Riffle — for leading the housing ministry, and the pastoral associates who have served as liaisons between the parish and the project — Paharik, Sandi Kocian and current liaison Katie Zuzik.
Paharik said The Bethlehem Project came to fruition because of four “Rs”: reminders, regionalization, reverend fathers and remembrance.
“Monsignor Begolly provided inspiration for The Bethlehem Project as he and other priests at the cathedral shared food, provided clothes and shared hope with the people in need,” she said.
The Diocesan focus on regionalization at the time led to the collaboration with Catholic Charities along with sharing of resources with the Greensburg-area parishes, Paharik said.
“Realizing that Christ has prepared a place for us to live in eternity, they remembered people here with memorial gifts to The Bethlehem Project,” she said of the project’s many benefactors.
Bishop Kulick said The Bethlehem Project is living witness of the Gospel message.
“The Bethlehem Project is an example of how the Catholic Church responds to Christ’s call to heed and help meet the needs of our brothers and sisters through the cooperation of the parishes and the Diocese itself,” he said.
The Bethlehem Project began in the winter of 1998 in response to the needs of homeless and near-homeless people in Greensburg who were coming to the cathedral for assistance.
With the approval of Monsignor Begolly and the Parish Pastoral Council, Paharik was given permission to devote some of her time to developing the parish ministry.
The Bethlehem Project works to help individuals and families stay in their homes, assists people in moves from temporary to permanent housing, including help with security deposits, and helps with occasional emergency, temporary housing.
In 1999, The Bethlehem Project began its collaboration with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Greensburg.
In addition to direct assistance, the project provides personal items for residents of the three shelters in Westmoreland County — the Welcome Home Shelter and the Blackburn Center in Greensburg and the Union Mission in Latrobe.
The Bethlehem Project serves people in Bovard, Derry, Forbes Road, Grapeville, Greensburg, Hannastown, Hunker, Jeannette, Luxor, Mount Pleasant, New Alexandria, New Derry, New Stanton, Penn, West Newton and Youngwood.
People living in The Bethlehem Project’s service area who need assistance with a housing-related issue can contact Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish at 724-834-3710, ext. 11.