Stewardship of treasure: Program inspires parishioners to increase giving

Father Patrick Hilgendorf blesses a boy’s throat at St. Patrick Church in Ottumwa at the end of Mass on Feb. 1 before the Feb. 3 Feast of St. Blaise. St. Patrick’s is among 52 parishes in the Diocese of Davenport that have done or, this year, will do an offertory enhancement program.

By Celine Klosterman
The 31 parishes in the Diocese of Davenport that completed an offertory enhancement program last year saw their weekly collections increase, and the 21 parishes beginning the effort this year are hoping for similar results.
After undertaking an appeal guided by Con­necticut-based Cunneen Company, parishes saw offertory increases ranging from 10 percent to 56 percent over five weeks, according to reports they shared with the diocese.
Sister Laura Goedken, OP, diocesan development director, proposed the program in 2012 after noticing parishioners had been making smaller annual increases in giving each year from 2007 to 2011. Those increases weren’t keeping up with inflation and parishes’ rising expenses, she said.
Cunneen’s approach relied on repeated letters from pastors to parishioners explaining stewardship and parish needs and asking for a response. Pulpit talks and bulletin announcements supported the letters’ message.
When Holy Trinity Parish in Keota and St. Mary Parish in Sigourney began the program in early 2013, Father Charles Fladung wasn’t sure how well it would work, the pastor said. The economy was sluggish, and Holy Trinity had recently asked parishioners for money for building improvements.
“But what I found out was that when people got the letter, many of them came to me personally and said, ‘You’re right; we’ve been giving the same amount to the church for a long time, and never thought about how your expenses have gone up.’”
By the end of the appeal, St. Mary’s had seen a 36 percent increase in its offertory collection, and Holy Trinity saw growth of 56 percent. Many parishioners committed to increasing their weekly or monthly giving over the long term, Fr. Fladung said.
With the extra funds, the parishes replaced old light fixtures in their educational buildings and made some facility repairs.
In Knoxville, St. Anthony Parish’s financial reports have looked better since the parish made the offertory enhancement effort a year ago, said bookkeeper and secretary Kathy Herwehe. Over the five weeks of the appeal, St. Anthony’s weekly collections increased 38 percent. “We were shocked it worked that well for our parish. You always hate to ask for money,” but the letters sent to parishioners made a big difference, she said. “The church isn’t begging for money; it’s just coming in.”
After undertaking the program in spring 2013, parishes in Hills, Lone Tree and Nichols saw offertory increases of 26 to 31 percent, and were thus able to drop second collections for ministries including Helping Hands. That outreach was added to the budget, as were the food pantry at St. Joseph’s in Hills and a grant for parishioners who choose to make a mission trip to Haiti, said Father Michael Spiek­ermeier, pastor. St. Joseph Parish also discontinued envelopes for insurance, air conditioning, fuel and other routine expenses.
For the most part, parishioners are keeping up with the commitments they made to increase their donations over time, he added.
For the offertory enhancement effort to succeed long-term, parishes need to renew it annually, Sr. Goedken said. “Parishes get new members; younger members decide to become more active in their parish and begin to donate; some members retire and live on a limited income; other parishioners relocate or die.” Sending letters to parishioners each year can inspire the Catholics to consider adjusting their giving accordingly.
“Everyone needs an annual opportunity to step back and ask, ‘Am I where I want to be?’” said Judy Johnson, recently retired parish administrator for Our Lady of Victory in Davenport. That’s why the parish has done annual renewals since it first used Cunneen in 2011 to help finance building additions at the church and John F. Kennedy Catholic School. The first year brought “stunning results;” renewals in 2012 and 2013 led to offertory increases of 3 percent to 5 percent, she estimated.
About two dozen parishes were excused from the offertory enhancement program, some because they already are promoting stewardship through companies other than Cunneen. “There is still time for any of the remaining parishes to participate,” Sr. Goedken said. “When the diocese promoted the program diocesan-wide, the parishes paid only 65 percent of the cost than if they contracted individually because we received a group rate.”
On Feb. 7, the Diocesan Corporate Board of Directors and Diocesan Finance Council will discuss adjusting parishes’ Annual Diocesan Appeal goals because of increased offertory income, she said.
For more information, call (563) 888-4252 or email

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on