WEST TEXAS: Lady Bird's donation gave thanks for church's support
"We talk in terms of a congregation being a family, well, she really did look at members of this congregation as her family," the Rev. Richard Elwood, St. Barnabas' rector, told a television station in Austin, Texas July 19.
St. Barnabas started in the 1950s in one of the first homes built in Fredericksburg. It didn't take the parish long to outgrow the one hundred year old building and a new chapel was built. Recently, the members added a parish hall, and some debt.
"We had a debt on the parish hall that was built eight or nine years ago that the parish has been dealing with and paying off," Elwood said.
That was until the former first lady stepped in. In their Sunday services three weeks before her death on July 11, the church announced they had received a $300,000 gift.
A letter to the parish, signed by Johnson, read in part: "I feel the time has come for me to repay a part of the debt for the irreplaceable gifts of comfort, strength and abiding faith I have received."
Elwood said the parish is "now free from this debt and so just strictly from a financial position it just opens up all sorts of possibilities we can move in all sorts of directions and expand our ministries."
On August 19, Diocese of West Texas Bishop Gary Lillibridge will visit St. Barnabas and participate in a celebratory burning of the parish hall mortgage.
For the last 18 months, Elwood would bring communion to Johnson almost every Sunday, and even though a stroke had taken her ability to speak, she would participate in the service.
"She was very, very present and her mind was still incredibly alert and you could tell she was mouthing the service, she was keeping up with the service," he said.
Elwood said Lady Bird was laid to rest in the Johnson family cemetery in Stonewall, Texas, on July 15 at about the time they would normally have been having Communion.
He told the television station that this week is one of the first times in over a year he doesn't know where he'll be on Sunday afternoon.» Respond to this article