There’s no place like home – especially when it’s a home built with love.
Parishioners of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Ocala have saved, scrimped and sacrificed to buy their pastor a new home which is now under construction. He currently lives in a mobile home but it has a mold problem and is falling into disrepair.
“He was very content to stay there,” said Father Felicito Baybay’s secretary Debbie Desimone. “But it was the parishioners who said they wanted their pastor in a house and not a mobile home.”
It all started when Father Cito, as he is affectionately known by his parishioners, came to Immaculate Heart of Mary in November 2005.
“My first year I was in a house two miles away and then I transferred to the mobile home the next year and I have been there ever since,” said Father Cito, “I wanted to be on the church property.”
He wanted to be close to his parishioners so he could better serve them.
Described by some as a “little country parish” with a large senior population, Immaculate Heart of Mary parishioners are now eagerly anticipating the new rectory for Father Cito.
The discovery of a severe mold problem last year heightened the sense of urgency. “Father Cito never complained about his living conditions; he said he’s from the Philippines and he’s lived in worse,” said Ed Lindsley, chairman of the Immaculate Heart of Mary finance committee.
Lindsley added that when the extent of the mold problem became apparent, the primary objective for the parish finance committee became quite clear—“We’ve got to get Father Cito out of that mobile home.”
Without borrowing any money for the construction of the rectory, the parish was able to fund the majority of the building project with funds from its Alive in Christ campaign with the balance made up from proceeds from the sale of the house that used to serve as the rectory.
The new rectory is modest with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a two car garage.
“It is a testimony to the generosity of the parishioners building the rectory to have a nice living condition for any priest coming to the parish,” said Father Cito, who added that many parishioners are already struggling financially but choose to donate to projects like the rectory construction or even the parish food pantry “whether they have the means or not.”
As of mid-July, the exterior walls and roof are already up, and the building is scheduled for completion by late August or early September. “Father Cito’s philosophy is ‘this parish will be here long after I’m gone,’” said Desimone. “He (tells us), ‘This is not my house, this is your rectory.’”