You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 5:55 a.m.

Washtenaw County Catholic churches renovate house with Habitat for Humanity

By Erica Hobbs


Volunteers worked working on a Habitat for Humanity house for Hosanna Vivas and her daughter, Andrea, Saturday, April 27.

Courtney Sacco I

The Catholic community in Washtenaw County is banding together to build a home for a family in need.

The county’s 12 congregations — plus Saint Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital — have raised funds to sponsor and renovate a home with Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley. The non-profit organization provides homeownership opportunities and assistance for low-income families in Washtenaw County.

The group raised the pledged $30,000 to sponsor the property and has been sending construction volunteers since early April to renovate the home at 2143 Merrill St., Ypsilanti, in what they have dubbed, the “Catholic House.”

“Every church is spiritually behind it and many are financially behind it, because we all believe in the importance of good, clean, safe housing for people,” said Rev. Brendan Walsh, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Dexter and vicar for the region.

Want to help?

Here's a list of Washtenaw County Catholic Churches

  • Christ the King, Ann Arbor
  • Immaculate Conception, Milan
  • St. Andrew, Saline
  • St. Francis of Assisi, Ann Arbor
  • St. John the Baptist, Ypsilanti, merged with Holy Trinity Student Parish, Ypsilanti
  • St. Joseph, Dexter
  • St. Joseph, Ypsilanti
  • St. Mary Student Parish, Ann Arbor
  • St. Mary, Chelsea
  • St. Mary, Manchester
  • St. Patrick, Ann Arbor
  • St. Thomas the Apostle, Ann Arbor

St. Joseph raised the funds during a “fifth Sunday” collection in January, as part of the church’s tradition of donating money collected during additional masses held in months with more than four Sundays to charity. But many other churches, including Ann Arbor’s St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas the Apostle and Chelsea’s St. Mary Parish, participated as part of a special project for Lent.


The "Catholic House" built by Habitat for Humanity volunteers for Hosanna Vivas and her daughter, Andrea.

Courtney Sacco I

St. Francis, a leader in the project, contributed about one-third of the total funds as part of its Lenten “Sustain a House Sack.” The annual project asks parishioners to cut back on their energy use during Lent and contribute the financial savings to a partner organization to support those in need.

Scott Wright, the parish social ministry director at St. Francis, said Lent was a period of preparation for Easter, the Christian holy day marking the believed resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“This is a practice of trying to simplify our lives in order that we can share what we have with others who are less fortunate, because we recognize when we pray, fast and give alms, that life is not fair and that when we participate, we basically share what God has given everyone,” he said.

The “Catholic House” eventually will be home to Hosanna Vivas and her 12-year-old daughter, Andrea. The Venezuelan native, who now lives in an apartment in Ann Arbor, fled her home country in 2006 after being kidnapped and robbed in her home country, and now lives in the United States as a permanent resident.

Vivas is a single mother who works as a Spanish-English medical interpreter at the University of Michigan and takes classes at Washtenaw Community College in preparation for nursing school. She said while she works and pays her bills, she never had enough cash to purchase a home. When a friend informed her of the support with Habitat for Humanity, Vivas applied and said she quickly was approved.

“For me to get my house was like a dream,” she said. “I saw a lot of houses, and I never thought that it could be possible because of my economic situation.”

Families who qualify to receive a Habitat home have income levels between 30-60 percent of the Washtenaw County area median income, varying by family size, according to the Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley website. Families must then contribute 200 “sweat equity” hours of building work per adult toward their house in addition to an interest-free mortgage payment that does not exceed more than 30 percent of the family’s income.

Karen Shellie, manager of corporate relationships for Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley, said houses usually are valued at around $100,000 after renovation, though purchased for much less. In the case of the “Catholic House,” Habitat acquired the home from Ypsilanti Township after it had been abandoned for nearly two years.

Volunteers have been renovating the house every Friday and Saturday since April 6 and will continue until early June. A dedication to welcome Vivas and her daughter into the home is expected later that month.

Vivas said she is extremely grateful to Habitat for Humanity, God and all the people who have contributed to her home.

“I’m feeling really happy, my daughter is feeling happy because she’s going to have her own room, she’s going to be able to bring her friends home and we are going to have our own place,” she said. “This is more than wonderful.”



Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 4:48 p.m.

My comments are two-fold. In our progressive, religion-God-bashing area, I'm surprised this was given press and allowed to use the word Catholic as many times as it was. I would also like to know if Hosanna Vivas is a "legal" resident. It only said permanent resident. I know dozens and dozens of American women who live in poverty, are abused daily and robbed and are not given the attention this woman was given. How was she chosen? A million kudos to the parishes and HH with the intentions but I feel we do not take of those already here in our midst.

Erica Hobbs

Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 6:33 p.m.

JGA2trueblue, Habitat for Humanity only works with U.S. citizens or those who have legal permanent residency status, which Hosanna Vivas does. As for the other women in the area who are suffering, they are welcome to apply, like Hosanna did, to receive a Habitat for Humanity home. However, they still need to meet the requirements to qualify, which can be found at


Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

Like most of what Jimmy Carter ever touched, HH is a well intended bad idea. The implied premise is that those receiving these houses understand hard work, obligation and duty - first to those who donate and work on them, and then to the lenders by paying their mortgage or loans every month. Sadly, in Michigan that is where HH usually breaks down and these generous offers of Christian good turn into an embarrassing wastes of time. The solution is for HH to keep careful and well publicized data on these houses and learn from each failure by modifying who can qualify for their services. For example, if someone has a modest income, but a great credit score. Think about it.

Ivor Ivorsen

Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 8:16 p.m.

NoPC: And the last war between Israel and Egypt was...? Considering Egypt and Israel fought wars in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973 I'd say the "peace" JC worked has worked better than most agreements in the area in recent years.


Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 7:45 p.m.

If your family's story were more common, I would be a supporter of HH. At the end of the day, it is your participation in society that make it successful. You folks sound like a excellent examples of people who HH was intended to help and I wish you all great success in the future.


Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 6:31 p.m.

I have a habitat house and let me say before you judge you should know that habitat has you pay of your debts,has you take classes for financial and home maintenance and the house isn't just givan to you. I am a married 24 year old with a 7 year old who works 40+ hours a week if it wasn't for habitat I wouldnt been able to afford to buy a house. So just because a few people don't appreciate it doesn't mean the whole thing is a bad idea.


Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 6:16 p.m.

@Ivory-- Yeah, I see that "peace" JC worked out is going real well...

Ivor Ivorsen

Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 3:42 p.m.

"Like most of what Jimmy Carter ever touched..." Like peace between Egypt and Israel for the last 34 years? Not too shabby.

A A Resident

Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 11:08 a.m.

What a cool idea for Lent, cutting back on energy usage!