This past weekend, I was channel-surfing and stopped on Fox News when a video clip of Pope Francis caught my eye.
The Fox News host was discussing World Youth Day in Rio, and was highlighting a Catholic parish in the Bronx that is going to great and unique lengths to make sure their youth are able to attend WYD this summer:
Fr. Andrew O’Connor, the pastor at Holy Family Parish in the Bronx, New York, has become an entrepreneur of sorts and is using his entrepreneurial endeavors to benefit the parish community. While upholding his duties as the parish pastor, he has founded various side projects to help his parishioners and the community make a living, and is now using his efforts to help the youth of the parish get to WYD.
In 2005, Fr. Andrew O’Connor developed a clothing company called Goods of Conscience after going on a retreat in Guatemala. While in Guatemala, Fr. Andrew discovered a weaving technique called back-strap weaving, which had become a lost artform. His original goal was to preserve this weaving tradition, but also saw how it could provide a living wage for people in need. Today, Goods of Conscience is a flourishing clothing company that employs Mayan Indian weavers in Guatemala and underemployed sewers in the Bronx.
Goods of Conscience has been recognized by the fashion industry in New York and worldwide, and has garnered the attention of various celebrities including Cameron Diaz, who wore the clothing for a Vogue photo shoot in 2010.
But, Fr. Andrew’s entrepreneurial endeavors don’t stop there.
The rooftop of Holy Family hosts beehives for honey cultivation and an expanding organic garden with fruits and vegetables to benefit the parish community.
Fr. Andrew also recently began growing hops for a local Bronx brewery, in the hopes of brewing his own beer and rye whiskey at the parish soon. Hopefully Fr. Andrew and the parish can soon add artisanal beer crafter to their ever-growing list of accomplishments (and we can all enjoy drinking their beer and whiskey).
Fox News covered this inspiring story because it’s just that – inspiring. Fr. Andrew and the Holy Family parish family have come together in these various trades to provide for the community and for their own families, and now to give the youth of their parish the opportunity to see Pope Francis at World Youth Day in Rio.
Holy Family parish will be using the proceeds from their honey, clothes, and hops this summer, to help send their parish youth group to World Youth Day. What a powerful witness this parish is to their local community, but also to parishes around the country, and around the world.
This parish has found unique ways to help parishioners provide for their families, and they are using these same resources to encourage the youth in their faith journey. The opportunity to attend World Youth Day has been life-changing for me and I am sure it will be just as powerful for the youth of Holy Family parish.
Let this business paradigm be a model for Catholic churches across this nation, as a way to provide for the parish community and their families. Additionally, this has been a great way for Fr. Andrew and Holy Family to reach out to the community and share the Gospel with them through service and love.
Pray for them and this great mission. And please pray for all of the youth throughout the world who will be attending World Youth Day in Rio.
And to find out more about Goods of Conscience, check out their website.