By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
The coronavirus pandemic has caused financial uncertainty for many families in the Iowa City corridor, said Father Chuck Adam, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville. It has also caused the parish to exercise patience and understanding regarding its building campaign.
St. Thomas More parishioners have been eager to expand their church, parking lot and lower level to accommodate a rapidly increasing number of families. Last year, the parish embarked on a $7 million capital campaign. The parish looked forward to hosting a fundraising picnic and raffling off a new Kia Soul this summer to push pledges over the top.
The coronavirus pandemic put a kink in those hopes; the picnic was cancelled and more tickets must be sold before the car can be raffled off.
The news isn’t all-bad. Most parishioners have continued to honor their pledges, with about $5 million pledged to date. The parish replaced its parking lot earlier this summer while Masses diocesan-wide were suspended due to the coronavirus. The new parking lot has allowed the parish to celebrate drive-in Masses since public celebration of Mass resumed in late June.
“It’s my experience that people love their church and recognize that their church needs their help. They don’t want to see the church suffer in its finances because of the challenges everyone is going through,” Father Adam said. However, he has been clear with parishioners that it is OK if present circumstances prevent them from honoring pledges or giving to the campaign at this time. The parish is not actively soliciting new pledges from parishioners. “We know everyone is bearing some challenges, and we want to be supportive and understanding of that, too.”
The parish’s Knights of Columbus council is still doing what it can to sell raffle tickets for the Kia Soul. Past Grand Knight Ron Conner said the council hoped to sell about 2,500 tickets, which could bring in about $25,000-$30,000 for the campaign. The Knights had started selling tickets after Masses when the pandemic reached Iowa. Since the raffle didn’t take place as planned, the Knights are continuing to sell tickets, which is challenging when people aren’t gathering as they usually would. “We’re figuring out new ways to meet people,” he said. Knights are selling tickets at the drive-in Masses and outside Hy-Vee stores — while wearing face coverings and observing social distancing.
Although the pandemic has slowed the council’s ability to contribute to the campaign, Conner finds comfort knowing that God is in charge. “What’s gonna happen is gonna happen. We just have to adjust and do whatever we can.”
Father Adam said he has no expectations when it comes to the campaign. “We’re just waiting to see what happens in the months ahead and letting people adjust their personal lives to whatever the new normal is.”