|Teachers and volunteers from St. Edward School in Nashville recently worked on a Habitat for Humanity home in Antioch. The project was a new ministry for the school and St. Edward parish, and organizers hope the parish will continue to be involved in the ministry and broaden its participation in helping Habitat for Humanity.
This past February on a 27-degree Palm Sunday, an industrious team of St. Edward School faculty, spouses and a few older children helped Habitat for Humanity complete two homes in Antioch. Although this was the first time St. Edward had collaborated with the non-profit on a “build,” the parish is already planning to make it an annual event.
It all started a few weeks before, when St. Edward parishioner and school dad, Peter Preisler, got inspired during Mass.
“Father Dan (Reehil) in one of his sermons spoke about how we needed to give back, and not only be a parish that is interested in receiving,” said Preisler. “So I thought maybe there could be a great event for us to start here at St. Edward’s.”
Preisler, a regular volunteer with Hands-On Nashville, and a volunteer previously with Habitat for Humanity in California, had been hoping to connect with Nashville’s Habitat agency. He thought involving the St. Edward faculty would be a terrific community outreach endeavor.
He broached the topic with his youngest daughter Anabel’s pre-K teacher, Patti Drexler, who loved the idea. “Patti became my point person with the school,” Preisler said. “She was absolutely instrumental in getting the faculty fired up.”
Then Preisler approached Matt Hawkins, Habitat for Humanity’s Nashville director of volunteer relations, who also recognized the benefit of the school team concept. It was decided that the St. Edward’s team would take on the important final “finishing touches” right before the family moves in.
“The last stage is basically where you end up cleaning up the house, adding trim work, doing tons of paint touch up, landscaping, gutter work – everything that is sort of missing,” explained Preisler. “We thought this would be the best stage to introduce the faculty to a Habitat for Humanity project.”
The St. Edward crew completed the homes in Lots 159 and 160 on Lakewalk Drive, in Habitat for Humanity’s large Hallmark Development near Antioch High School. There were 19 St. Edward representatives present, split into two teams, with Supervisors on Sight provided by Habitat for Humanity.
The organization has a policy of future homeowners putting in “sweat equity” by assisting with the construction of their own homes, so there were family members pitching in that day as well.
With this first build, St. Edward joined several other parishes over the years that have made working with Habitat for Humanity a regular ministry, including the Cathedral of the Incarnation, St. Stephen, Christ the King, St. Henry, St. Matthew and others.
Preisler wants St. Edward’s association with Habitat for Humanity to continue and is pushing for the faculty build to be an annual or possibly bi-annual happening.
“It was agreed upon among all the faculty members, including the principal, that this was something we have to do next year, and then the next year, and the next year,” said Preisler. “I learned later that some parents, and especially some men, were a little taken aback that this was only a faculty event. That’s a good sign.”
That may just translate into an additional build that will involve families from the school, and families and individuals from the church. Preisler believes it will be a wonderful opportunity for parishioners to get to know each other within the shared experience of giving back. “It’s a great community builder,” Preisler said. “It builds our community, as well as a future for someone else.”
Preisler is thinking about the future of the St. Edward parish too. He has been a member there for four years, and describes himself as a “newer Catholic”, having converted to Catholicism 12 years ago after marrying his wife, Melissa.
“I know in my heart that St. Edward’s has always been a stronghold, at least from others that have been here for several generations,” said Preisler. “I also know that St. Edward’s is on to something really great, as a school, as a church, as a parish. It’s on its way back, to something much bigger than what it’s been.
“This initiative is indicative of that,” continued Preisler. “We want to lead and be a positive example for other Catholic schools in the area, by setting our bar a little bit higher.”