The Roof Leaks
By Fred Owens
The roof leaks at Holy Cross Church in Santa Barbara. It's a small church, and not famous like the Mission Church is famous, but the roof leaks. I know because last month right after weekday Mass, Monsignor Rafael stepped down from the altar, walked over to the pews, pointed to the ceiling above the pews and said it, "The roof leaks." Then he pointed to water damage on the pews underneath the leak.That's all he said. Then he want back to the room where the priest changes his garments and then back to the rectory for his breakfast and the day's business.
I got the monsignor's point. The roof leaks. It needs to be fixed. That takes money. Holy Cross is running a deficit of $12,000 according to someone on the parish council. Where is the pastor going to get the money to fix the roof? I hope he wasn't looking at me.
Holy Cross Church hosts an almost one-acre fruit orchard on its grounds. The orchard is tended by volunteers who prune and rake, and tend to irrigation, and a hundred other chores. The fruit -- apples, plums, peaches, apricots, bananas, citrus, table grapes, and much more -- is all donated to the Food Bank so that low income people can have access to fresh fruit.
This orchard was planted nine years ago and is just now coming into full production -- some hundreds of pounds of fruit harvested every year. All at no cost to the parish, all the work done by volunteers. But now we have to pay for the leaking roof. Monsignor Rafael wants us to pay the parish $200 per month for use of the orchard. Kind of a roof tax, in my opinion. I get his point. If you have a garden that needs work and a roof that leaks, you fix the roof first. The roof is the priority.
So why don't they throw a bingo party and fundraiser and get the money that way? Why don't they ask the archbishop down in Los Angeles to pay for the roof? Why would our lousy $200 a month make a difference anyway?
Almost none of the garden volunteers are Catholic. Some of them are devoutly secular. They will work for hours to keep the trees healthy, but they won't pay a roof tax to the Church.
It would help if Monsignor Rafael could improve his social skills. He could try asking instead of demanding. He used to be the police chaplain for the LAPD before he came up to Santa Barbara for what is basically a retirement position at Holy Cross. He loves cops, but we ain't cops, we're hippies with trowels. So he won't come down to the garden. He just looks at us from across the parking lot, coming down the steps from the rectory to walk his dog. He loves dogs, just like he loves cops. Good for him. But he doesn't love gardens and fruit trees. It's a bad combination. Trying to get money from the orchard volunteers is like squeezing blood from a turnip. A lot of our people will just go home. Or go to other gardens to do volunteer work.
The garden is called the Mesa Harmony Garden. You can look it up on the Internet. It's a separate entity from the church, a non-profit with a board of trustees. I'm one of the trustees. I like all the people on the board. I like to say that Harmony is our middle name and that is how it feels. But this is getting stressful, being threatened with consequences, getting messages from the real estate attorney employed by archdiocese.
The board met in emergency session on Saturday and agreed to start paying $50 a week on August 1. Then we scratched together a list of fund-raising projects. Nobody likes fundraising. We ran that whole orchard on about $1,000 per year and most of that was to pay the water bill and the water bill is low because we have invested hundreds of unpaid hours installing a state of the art irrigation system that uses water scarcely.
This is not my first community garden. I've seen this kind of trouble before. You would think that every one loves a garden, but you would be wrong.
That's enough. That's enough for this week. It's like that guy said in the movie, the one where they have the Marigold Hotel in India. The clerk says to the frustrated guests who have no running water. He says to them, "Everything will be all right in the end so if it is not all right it is not the end.”