Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
This time around, selling Indulgences fosters unity, not division
by Jami LeBrun, Inland Register staff
(From the November 11, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)
Most Catholics are familiar with Christ’s teaching to serve the poor and their neighbors. Spokane’s St. Ann Parish has come up with an unusual and creative way to do just that: by selling chocolate “jubilate indulgences” to help raise money to serve their low-income neighborhood, which suffers from crime and drug abuse.
“I get ideas the way dogs get fleas,” said Tom Westbrook, the brain behind the idea that has allowed St. Ann Parish to support neighborhood programs for over 10 years.
In the beginning, the parish was looking for a way to raise money to help their poor neighborhood community, without putting more financial pressure on families than they already experienced. Westbrook got the idea to sell chocolate indulgences and immediately went to work making his idea into reality.
He contacted Spokandy, a local candy company, who agreed to custom make and hand wrap the special chocolates and bill the parish. Ed Sinclair, owner of the Kaufer Company, a local Catholic liturgical supply and bookstore, agreed to sell the chocolates at the register in his store.
“It’s one of those things that’s a good cause,” said Sinclar. “I like the way they’re creatively raising funds and then turning it back into the neighborhood that needs it. It’s also an imaginative and wonderfully tongue-in-cheek way to look at the history of the Church.”
“Tongue-in-cheek” is also the way Westbrook describes the parish’s selling of indulgences.
“The whole thing is a put-on,” said Westbrook. “We claim to be the only church in the world that still sells indulgences over the counter.”
Most people associate with indulgences the scandal in the late Middle Ages where indulgences, a long-standing Church practice whereby a penitent is granted a remission before God of the earthly punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, were abused and used to raise money to build St. Peter Basilica in Rome. The sale of indulgences was one of the reasons Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses and left the Church, starting the Protestant Reformation.
A card attached to each candy indulgence sold by St. Ann Parish quotes “campaign coordinator Shirley Simony” – simony being the term for the sin of selling something sacred.
The Indulgences rewards have benefited a variety of neighborhood programs over the years. Now all the proceeds are donated to Grace Lutheran’s SPEAR program, an after-school program for neighborhood children, just three blocks from the parish.
Westbrook said that he loves that “indulgences are what drove Martin Luther out of the Church and now the money goes to the Lutherans.”
(To buy St. Ann Parish’s chocolate indulgences, visit Kaufer Co. at 907 W. Boone, Spokane.)