About those shoes: Parishioner gifts Pope Francis Center CEO unique pair of kicks

Shoes given to Fr. Tim McCabe, SJ, executive director of the Pope Francis Center, by Sacred Heart parishioner Angela Vann depict a Black youth sitting on a front porch, with blue (for the Virgin Mary) and red (representing Sacred Heart's red brick facade) completing the design, courtesy of Converse. (Courtesy photos)

DETROIT — Fr. Tim McCabe, SJ, says Angela Vann has more shoes than Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines known for her famous footwear collection.

Vann, who is the pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Church in Detroit, doesn’t disagree she loves shoes. Which is what gave her the idea to make sure Fr. McCabe had what he needed when the Pope Francis Center said sneakers would be welcome at this year’s annual Building Bridges Gala.

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Fr. McCabe is president and CEO of the Pope Francis Center, a Detroit nonprofit that provides food and services to people experiencing homelessness. He is also filling in as interim priest at Sacred Heart.

The Building Bridges Gala was held April 11 at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. Kicking field goals on the turf was one of the fundraising activities at the event.

“I told him — ‘I’m getting you some Chucks,’” Vann said. “He said ‘Really?’ I said, ‘I got you.’”

Fr. McCabe shows off his new shoes, a gift from Sacred Heart parishioner Angela Vann.
Fr. McCabe shows off his new shoes, a gift from Sacred Heart parishioner Angela Vann.
From left to right, Angela Vann, Fr. Tim McCabe, SJ, and Arnold Vann smile during the Pope Francis Center's "Building Bridges Gala" on April 11.
From left to right, Angela Vann, Fr. Tim McCabe, SJ, and Arnold Vann smile during the Pope Francis Center's "Building Bridges Gala" on April 11.

Vann visited the Converse website where people can submit custom shoe designs. What she came up with could do as well on a mural as a pair of trainers. There is blue for the Virgin Mary. There are red hearts for their church in downtown Detroit not far from the city’s Eastern Market.

And there is an image of a Black youth on a street corner listening to music. Sacred Heart calls itself “The Mother Church of Black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit.” Fr. McCabe often discusses racial topics in his homilies and doesn’t shy from raising hard questions about racism in the U.S., Vann said.

The picture struck Vann as something Fr. McCabe would celebrate. “It said everything. The boy is sitting on a stoop, headphones on. It just resonated cool for me,” she said.

Soon the shoes were on their way. When Vann presented them, Fr. McCabe was so surprised he blushed.

“I wanted him to know how much I love him and appreciate him, and how Sacred Heart loves him so much,” Vann said.

Amid hundreds of colorful shoes that evening, Fr. McCabe’s custom sneakers stood out, and he recounted their origin story from the stage after modeling them for the crowd.

“Amazing — thank you, Angela,” Fr. McCabe said.

As for Vann, who was at her first Building Bridges Gala, she is already thinking of the future. “I’ll be his shoe person from now on,” she said. “I’ll be the shoe designer for Fr. Tim and the Pope Francis Center.”

The Pope Francis Center later announced the organization had raised a record $1.7 million in donations from the event.



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