The people of the Church of the Epiphany are demonstrating once again why the parish near Anchorage is known as one of the most socially conscious in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
As Epiphany celebrates its 50-year jubilee, some of its members are building a Habitat for Humanity house. It’s the first one Epiphany’s people have done entirely on their own. But it’s the 14th Habitat house that the parish has helped to create.
Long-time parish member Chuck Sgro began working with Habitat for Humanity in 1998, and since then he has been a part of constructing 173 houses in Louisville and another 15 that were built in Baton Rouge, La., after Hurricane Katrina.
Sgro is now a Habitat Team Leader, and of the 54 people who work with him, 19 are members of the Church of the Epiphany. COVID-19, of course, has changed everything — from production schedules to the ability of people to participate.
“When I started back in ‘98, I didn’t know how to build anything,” said Sgro, who retired as an Air Force captain and moved to Louisville in 1973. In the years following his Air Force career, he became an owner or executive in a number of local businesses and corporations.
So when he was introduced to Habitat for Humanity, what he lacked in ability with a hammer and nails he made up for with leadership skills. His time with Habitat began after three months of full-time retirement.
“I was bored,” he recalled. Helping to build houses for people who really needed, but couldn’t afford them changed his life.
“On that first weekend back in ‘98, it was landscaping day and the children of the homeowner were allowed on the construction site,” he said. “It was down in the West End where I hadn’t been very often.”
The soon-to-be homeowner’s 6-year-old daughter took his hand and asked, “Do you want to see my bedroom?” Sgro recalled. The room was small, 10 feet by 12 feet, but to the little girl and her 11-year-old sister it felt cavernous.
“She said, ‘It’s special that I get to share the room with my sister,’ ” he said. “Then she said, ‘What’s really nice is that for the first time I can have my best friend come for a sleepover.’ ”
It was a moment that touched his heart, and ever since Sgro has been working with Habitat. And he’s proud that his parish has committed to the home-building program, too.
Tricia Burke, another parishioner who’s been at Epiphany for years, was the one who suggested making a Habitat build a part of the Jubilee celebration.
“Here’s the thing: I’m 62 and since childhood I’ve been a part of the parish,” she explained. “In the past I’ve helped out in hospitality (ministry), bringing lunch to the people who were working on the houses.”
She joined Habitat as a full-time staff member in June of 2020, and when the 50-year-anniversary of the parish rolled around, Burke thought that building a Habitat house on their own was just the ticket.
Last weekend, the workers raised the roof on the house at 4406 Ginkgo Trail.
“One of my traits is that I can be persistent,” Burke said. “So when I said this could be the year that we do a Habitat house on our own, I spoke to a lot of people and the parish came on board with the idea.”
One of those who did was a younger parishioner, Mary Quirk, who headed to the University of Notre Dame last weekend. The house marks her first time working with Habitat, though she’s helped Hand-in-Hand Ministries build or repair homes in Appalachia.
“It’s a cliché but it’s true that when you do something like this, you get more than you give,” she said. “Epiphany is all about making everything the work of the people, doing things together so that everyone sees that they are a part of the body of Christ.”
Epiphany parish, she said, “has been one of the great blessings of my life because here the activism, the service, is modeled for you. I think I’m probably going to cry when I leave for college because this parish has meant so very much to me.”
Epiphany’s pastor, Father Randy Hubbard, noted that the social mission of the church “has been and is a pillar of our parish community.”
“We knew we needed to highlight and celebrate the generosity of our parish through our outreach efforts,” he said in a statement provided by the church. “Doing a Jubilee Habitat build is one of the best ways we can thank God for all our many blessings through these last 50 years.”
In addition to providing the labor for building the house, the parish has so far raised $24,000 to help cover its cost.