Pledging to Partners in Faith - Catholic Courier

Pledging to Partners in Faith

Campaign earns more than $30 million to date

 

Father Robert J. Schrader, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Auburn, knows
the exact moment his parish surpassed its $655,000 fundraising goal for
Partners in Faith, the Diocese of Rochester’s $50-million capital
campaign.

“It was 12:55 p.m., Aug. 11,” he said, noting that parish campaign
leaders had first met in March.

Father Schrader said he was impressed by how his parishioners
responded to Partners In Faith, in spite of economic woes as well as
the news of war and the sexual-abuse crisis in the church. He said some
parishioners questioned the timing of the campaign, but he said he
couldn’t remember a year that didn’t have some bad news.

“There’s always something in the news either locally or worldwide to
say: ‘This isn’t a good time,'” Father Schrader said. “I think our
people were — as they always are — generous and supporting of
Partners in Faith and the objectives there.”

Partners in Faith has raised more than $30 million toward its $50
million overall goal, Bishop Matthew H. Clark announced during a Sept.
24 press conference at the new campus of St. Bernard’s School of
Theology and Ministry in Pittsford. Diocesan and parish officials noted
that gifts have included one worth $2.5 million, as well as several
five- and six-figure gifts.

Funded initiatives


Partners in Faith is intended to provide funding for the following
ministries or endeavors:

* Diocesan parishes: 50 percent of the funds raised from a
given parish will be returned to the parish for its own needs.

* Department of Catholic Schools: Endowment funds will be
used to maintain school tuition at an affordable level.

* Sacred Heart Cathedral: 12 percent of proceeds will go
toward the cathedral preservation and renovation project.

* Priests’ pension fund: Proceeds will help stabilize the
existing pension fund, while providing additional retirement benefits
as well as care for priests who are infirm.

* Thanks Giving Appeal: A portion of proceeds will be used to
support diocesan pastoral and social services that are normally funded
by this annual campaign, which has been suspended for this year. The
TGA will be reinstated in 2004.

* Catholic Charities: Endowment funds will support Catholic
Charities programs as well as technological updates for the
department.

* St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry: 5 percent of
proceeds were earmarked for construction of the graduate institute for
lay ministry’s new Pittsford facility. The new St. Bernard’s opened in
August, having relocated from space it had rented at Colgate Rochester
Crozer Divinity School in Rochester.

* Diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis: Endowment
funds will support catechist formation and expansion of youth
ministries.

* Campaign expenses: The diocese has retained Community
Counselling Service, a New York City fundraising company, to manage the
Partners in Faith campaign.

Approximately two-thirds of the parishes in the diocese have
completed or nearly completed their campaigns, which are taking place
in three phases, according to a diocesan press statement. The remaining
parishes — more than 50 — are schedule to complete their campaigns by
year’s end.

Bishop Clark repeatedly expressed gratitude to God and diocesan
Catholics for their support of Partners In Faith. “To date, the
response of our people have been extremely generous,” he said.

Communications key

Answering questions in a straightforward manner helped to make the
campaign successful, according to Father Schrader, who compiled
questions his campaign volunteers were hearing and responded to them in
a bulletin insert. The insert pointed out, for example, that campaign
proceeds would not be used to pay off costs related to the
sex-abuse crisis. The insert also noted that funds raised for Catholic
schools, religious education, Catholic Charities and other efforts
ultimately would benefit people in Auburn.

“I think when people saw the local tie-in, I think they were more
willing to support the whole campaign,” he said.

Father Jeremiah Moynihan, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in
Elmira, said he appealed to his parishioners’ sense of the larger
church to promote the campaign. As of mid-September, his parish had
reached 92 percent of its goal, he said.

“We tried to get the point across that we’re part of the diocesan
church,” he said. “We need to think of more than our local parish.”

Nancy Kline, a campaign volunteer at his parish, said she started
out thinking the parish would never meet its goal and is now confident
it will. In particular, she said, emphasizing how the campaign will
benefit Catholic Charities, priest pensions and the diocese’s
faith-formation work appealed to prospective Partners In Faith
donors.

The process used to implement the campaign, meanwhile, has garnered
mixed reviews from parish leaders and diocesan parishioners. Father
Robert Ring, pastor of the six-parish Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic
Community in Yates, Ontario and Steuben counties, said conducting the
campaign over the summer made it difficult because many people were
away.

Some parishioners needed little to no persuading to give to Partners
In Faith, whereas others declined to give at all, pastoral leaders and
campaign volunteers said. Father Ring noted said one parishioner with
whom he spoke was initially unwilling to donate, but changed her mind a
few days after he spoke with her about the campaign and she prayed
about it.

“We had a very wide range of responses,” said Skip Warren, who with
his wife, Karen, served on the Partners In Faith leadership team at St.
Joseph’s Parish in Rush. Some parishioners were grateful for the
opportunity to give, whereas others didn’t answer calls from campaign
volunteers, he said. Warren added that personal visits made by campaign
volunteers, plus the fact that the campaign was benefiting Catholic
schools and the priests’ pension fund, were successful in encouraging
people to donate.

“I think if we didn’t make the personal contact, it would be easier
for people not to respond,” Warren said.

Campaign concerns

Father William V. Spilly, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish
in Rochester, said “no one was enthusiastic about the campaign” taking
place in a time of economic turmoil and a dire world situation. He
added that he thought the suggested donation amounts were too high, a
point also echoed by Warren, who thought smaller suggested donations
would have garnered greater participation in the campaign. Yet in spite
of such reactions, Warren’s parish exceeded its goal by more than 8
percent as of late August, and Father Spilly’s parish exceeded its goal
of $585,000 with pledges of $629,445.

Sister of St. Joseph Alice Cooney, pastoral administrator at St.
Joseph’s, likewise noted that many people were initially taken aback by
the size of donations suggested in campaign literature. People gave out
of “loyalty to the church and to Bishop Clark,” she said, but many
expressed “grave reservations about the manner in which the campaign
was handled.” In addition to the suggested donation amounts, she said
some parishioners also objected to the tone of the solicitation letters
and the insistence on personal visits with donors.

Nevertheless, Sister Cooney said, “people were amazingly
generous.”

Indeed, Bishop Clark acknowledged that the size of suggested
donations may have made people “gasp a little.” However, he said he
believed that the campaign was extremely important to the future of the
diocese and that belief supported the diocese’s request for great
generosity on the part of the faithful.

As for the way the campaign itself was conducted, diocesan spokesman
Michael Tedesco said it is always challenging to solicit donations.

“There’s a delicate balance in asking people for a gift,” he said.
“Certainly we don’t want to pressure people into giving. We want to be
respectful of our donors. But there has to be a relatively strong ‘ask’
in a campaign.”

Tedesco added that he thought the solicitation letters were
respectful.

“Having viewed the letters, they don’t appear to me be offensive or
pushy,” he said. “However, people react differently to what they read
and their interpretation is different. Obviously this campaign has been
very successful, and that indicates to me that we’re conducting it in a
respectful, proper manner.”

A few parish leaders said controversy over renovations to Sacred
Heart Cathedral turned off some potential donors, but for many the
renovation plan seemed to be either be a neutral factor or a positive
one in influencing donor decisions. For example, Father Ring pointed
out that most donors were persuaded by explanations that the cathedral,
as the site of ordinations and numerous other diocesan events, is a
structure that serves all diocesan Catholics, not just its own
parishioners.

Father Schrader noted that his Auburn parishioners have attended
cathedral events and are well aware of the need to upgrade the
building.

In the end, it seemed the more a Catholic knew about how diocesan
ministries benefit people at the parish level — from training lay
leaders at St. Bernard’s to providing social services through Catholic
Charities — the more likely that Catholic was to donate, pastoral
leaders and campaign volunteers said.

One such informed donor was Marion Burke, a member of at Holy
Apostles Parish in Rochester, who said she was persuaded by a Partners
in Faith booklet outlining the campaign’s targeted beneficiaries and by
the fact that 50 percent of proceeds would remain with the parishes.

“When I saw this come along, I felt it was a cause I could support,”
Burke said.

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