What Have Muscle Cars To Do With the Church?

Many churches in the United States have countless channels through which they receive financial supports—annuities, trusts, wills, gifts-in-kind, you name it. However, these channels are somewhat irrelevant to the “poorest diocese in the United States.”

Many say that bright ideas spring up amid struggles. V8s for Vocations, the love story between muscle cars and the Church, came up as an alternative medicine to the economic illness in the Diocese of Gallup.

How It All Began

V8s for Vocations is a project initiated by Father Matt Keller, now rector of the Cathedral, and it has become the major source of support for the continued education of our seminarians—the future of the Church.

Fr. Keller said that the very beginning of this project is a fond memory of the ’64 Malibu SS he purchased when he was 15. Despite having fixed it up, he eventually sold the car to finance his college education, something that he now regrets! Many years after, in 2014, Fr. Keller was seriously looking to reunite with the car he loves.

Fr. Keller & friends taking the Chevelle body off its chassis

He was tracking down the exact Malibu he once owned, but it was then that a local parishioner in Gallup donated a beaten-up ’72 Chevelle SS. Of course, that wasn’t what Fr. Keller was looking for. However, living in Gallup is all about appreciating every single gift you receive, and taking it further whenever possible. This is what Fr. Keller did instead: he saw the Chevelle not as a mere big chunk of metal, but as tickets for our seminarians to study.

The Diocese of Gallup, poor as it is, doesn’t have a local seminary like many other dioceses. Seminarians here have to go out of state or country to get their education, and spending more than $20,000 per year for one seminarian is very difficult for this Diocese. How do we see the future of those who will serve the “Native American” Diocese? Through the windshield of muscle cars?

Chevelle SS and Firebird – the first two raffles (Credit: Samantha Mary Photography)

The first raffle was in 2016—a fully-restored ’72 Chevelle SS was in the spotlight, and the raffle raised about $100,000. The following year featured a ’69 Firebird, restored and raffled to a similar success. Thanks to these two raffles, the Diocese now has two seminarians who are happily studying in college—one in Ohio, and another in Rome.

Can Cars Save Souls?

V8s for Vocations may seem a financially promising project—however, it’s not simply about money.

Fellowship has been at the center of many restoration works. Fr. Keller was not alone in this project: many locals and Knights of Columbus members have participated in “panel-pulling party” among other tasks, and thus enjoyed bonding times together. More importantly, only by having a strong, young generation of priests can the Diocese be rest assured of its continued service to the Native Americans who make up most of the Diocese. Bishop James Wall calls this project a salus animorum, a salvation of souls, and it ought to continue to thrive. This eccentric, unprecedented way to raise funds for vocations has been a blessing for many—financially and spiritually.

The Diocese is a community of service – Fr. Dale serves meals to the elderly and poor residents

Fr. Keller may or may not eventually find his beloved Malibu. However, at least he has allowed the seminarians to find the education they deserve, and the Church to find the priests she needs. If all roads lead to Rome, even muscle cars can build the future of the Church.