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Open Invitation

The Reverend

(page 3 of 4)

Located at 2218 Binney Street, Sacred Heart serves the most poverty stricken area of the city through three nonprofit arms Fangman oversees. The most visible of these is the church, which originally opened at another site back in 1890.
 

The present stone, late-Gothic Revival church that stands today opened in 1902. Through Fangman’s leadership the parish was able to find the funds and in-kind contributions necessary for the building to undergo a $3.3 million restoration in 2009. He announced the capital campaign to fund the project in 2008. After making the case, folks responded, and within a year all pledges were secured.
 

More than a picture-postcard Old World edifice made new again, the church is a well-attended gathering place that draws worshipers, just as Sacred Heart counts parishioners, from all over the metro. The hospitality there is evident in the way newcomers are greeted. The Sunday 10:30 a.m. Mass is famous for its spirited celebration, complete with a rousing gospel choir and band. The animated “sign of peace” ritual includes hand shakes, salutations, hugs, and kisses as many folks circulate from pew to pew engaging each other. The fellowship resumes after Mass ends.
 

As a parish priest, Fangman is more than a spiritual figurehead. He’s a flesh-and-blood confessor, advisor, counselor, confidante, friend, leader, fundraiser and CEO. He serves his flock in macro and micro ways. He’s there at the most public and private, joyous and sad occasions. Hundreds of photographs of people in his life adorn every smooth surface in his kitchen, a reflection of how many he impacts and how many touch him.
 

“Being a parish priest lets you be involved in lots of peoples lives, from womb to tomb,” he said. “People say to me, ‘How can you be around so much sadness and death?’ I don’t know how to answer that but one thing I do know is that holiness is there in the midst of it, because that’s where love is.”
 

He fills multiple roles in the course of any given week: saying several Masses; hearing confessions; presiding, on average, over at least one wedding or funeral; visiting the sick; preparing couples for marriage; attending board meetings; calling on donors; and crafting his homilies. He feels good about a lot of things that go on at Sacred Heart.
 

“I feel like we have a really great thing to sell, and I’m sold. I believe in what we’re doing and I’ll talk to anybody about that,” he said.
A shining example he never tires of touting is Sacred Heart Elementary School, a K-8 institution serving a predominantly African-American, non-Catholic student population. The school’s financial sustainability and operations are supported by the nonprofit CUES or Christian Urban Education Service, comprised of an “established board” of Omaha movers and shakers. Fangman is its executive director.
 

He said students at the small private school consistently test above average and faculty and staff rigorously prepare students to succeed, adding that 98 percent graduate high school within four years. Mentors are assigned every student, all of whom receive work and life skills training.
 

Dec 30, 2010 03:09 pm
 Posted by  iamcart

Great article Leo -- Father Fangman is truly and amazing man ... he's more than a priest to all of us parishioners, he's a great friend. Keep up the good work Father Tom!!!

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