Parishioners work, make sacrifices to build church

By: Brad Smith, Gold Country News Service
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For Father Arnold Ortiz, watching the growth of his parish, St. Joseph Marello Catholic Church has been one miraculous occurrence after another. From holding church services at a school gym to watching his parish raise more than $4.5 million to build a new church — in today’s current economy — is nothing short of incredible, he feels. “In the fall of 2004, the church met with Granite Bay families who wanted to have their own parish,” he said. “Many people wanted it and I was more than willing to be there for them. I knew it’d be a challenge.” Since that time, Father Ortiz has spent his time divided between the parish’s offices on Sierra College during the weekdays and on weekends holding services at Cavitt Junior High School’s gym. “Church in a van,” is what he jokingly refers to his weekends. A typical Friday afternoon finds Ortiz packing the church’s van with an altar and other items needed to hold services. “I pack, unpack and then setup and prepare for (Saturday and Sunday) services,” he said. “Sunday night, I pack and unpack. It gets tiring but it’s all for a very good reason.” Fourteen acres of land was donated to the parish for the church. The next concern was raising the capital to build it. “I was concerned and I think everyone was,” Ortiz said. “The economy has been rough on many people, especially those in our parish.” Mi Mi Challstrom helped oversee the capital fundraising project. She said that a number of parish meetings had been held and many parishioners said they were willing to make sacrifices. Challstrom said some children set up lemonade stands and all of their money was donated to the church. “I would have kids who received money for Christmas and their birthdays — and they gave every cent to me,” she said. “I literally had kids give me their piggy bank money.” It was not just children. Tim and Nancy Hinchey live on a fixed income, mainly his pension and their Social Security. They prayed about how to help. “Even on a fixed income, Nancy and I figured out how we could get by and give money,” he said. With cash donations, the St. Joseph Marello parish has raised more than $4.5 million in over a year. “It’s more than enough to let us start construction,” Ortiz said. On May 30, the parish held a groundbreaking ceremony at the new church site, 7200 Auburn-Folsom Road, in Granite Bay. Bishop Jaime Soto from Sacramento was present for the event and blessed the land before shovels broke ground. “It’s a special, emotional day for all of us,” Stassinos said. “We’re all looking forward to the day when we can walk into our new home.”