Home to Build Trust, Good Will in Newark Area
"Abraham House" will be built on a lot across the street from Habitat for Humanity's Newark headquarters. A project in collaboration with spiritually and ethically based organizations in the state's largest city as well as Irvington, Millburn, Maplewood and South Orange, the two-story, one-family home will represent Habitat for Humanity's first collaborative efforts of different religions communities in and around Newark.
Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in South Orange and its nearby Maplewood neighbor, St. Joseph Parish are among the key participants in the project. Both parishes also are partners in the Archdiocese of Newark's New Energies program.
Retired magazine publisher T. Peter Sullivan, a board member of Habitat for Humanity Newark, stressed that families who qualify for the housing "are anything but deadbeats, they are good hardworking people." Among the qualifications are that a family must have a minimum income of $25,000 and qualify for a mortgage.
Important too, he emphasized, is that the family must put in a minimum of 400 hours of "sweat equity" working on their future home. Abraham House will, Sullivan declared, "improve the community and the neighborhood."
The demand for such housing in Newark is growing. More than 50 families applied for the three-bedroom, 1.5-bath, 1,600-squarefoot home. Expectations are that the foundation will be laid in January with the home occupied sometime before Thanksgiving.
In addition to the work and materials involved to build the structure, Sullivan pointed to the importance of the ecumenical aspect of the project. In addition to the two parishes of the Archdiocese of Newark, the faith traditions taking part include Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and members of the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County.
"With the world as messed up as it is with religious differences and strife, the coming together of the diverse religious traditions in the Newark area in a common cause to help improve the lives of a family is something you don't see much of today," Sullivan commented. Such collaborative efforts, he is convinced, promote a "better understanding of each other." The name of the house reflects that, he added, citing Abraham's role in the Bible, Torah and Koran.
Evidence of that ecumenical spirit abounds. An anonymous benefactor from Ahavas Sholom Jewish Congregation, the last temple in Newark, provided the land. Prospect Presbyterian Church of Maplewood donated $33,000 in seed money from its renovation capital campaign and St. Joseph Parish parishioners raised $8,300. Overall, the house will cost $90,000.
Margaret Prentice, chair of Habitat for Humanity Newark's Faith Relations Committee, called the ecumenical aspect of Abraham House "absolutely wonderful." Such a concept in this post-9/11 world, she explained, the coming together of Christians, Muslims, Jews and others, can only result in the "betterment of us as a society and all of us as a people."
Citing the "diverse" communities that comprise the Newark area, Very Rev. Michael A. Saporito, V.F., the pastor of St. Joseph's Parish, said there is "a lot of interest" in undertaking such projects among those of different faiths. His parish is no stranger to Habitat for Humanity. Every six weeks, the pastor explained, a group of volunteers takes part in the organization's Women's Build undertaking. The St. Joseph's contingent has worked on three houses.
The "opportunity" for such ecumenical efforts during "times of war and peace issues," is a "great thing," Father Saporito went on to say, adding that it fosters "good feelings." The money donated to Abraham House, the pastor was proud to say, came after a presentation during a scheduled stewardship session. Following remarks from the parish's Habitat for Humanity volunteers, a special collection netted the $8,300.
Under the watchful eye of coordinator Russell Pace, the youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows Parish will work on Abraham House. Rev. Msgr. Robert E. Emery, the pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows, said such endeavors are and represent a coming together of different faith conditions "for the good of the community."