By Anne Marie Amacher and Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
People are stepping up to support priests in their retirement, the education of seminarians, and their own parishes through the Diocese of Davenport’s Upon This Rock capital campaign. The pilot wave of 16 parishes is winding down and the second of three waves starts this fall.
The pilot wave has pledges at 47% of the total goal, which is very encouraging, says Development Director Michael Hoffman. People’s participation “validates the needs of the campaign. Every gift given, no matter the amount, goes a long way.” He reminds the faithful that they can make a sacrificial gift over a three-year period or pay at one time.
Father Jim Betzen, C.PP.S., says the success of the diocesan capital campaign at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa is the result of volunteer leadership, putting a face on the campaign and showing a visible improvement project. St. Mary, one of the pilot wave parishes, has pledged 93% of its $477,944 goal for the campaign.
Parishioners Rhonda Conrad and Ted Haas led a team of 25 lay volunteers, which was very helpful to the campaign that kicked off in April, Father Betzen said. In promoting the campaign, he explained to parishioners that all dioceses conduct capital campaigns to support their retired priests, future priests and for funding of parish projects. “That’s how I pitched it: ‘You’re helping retired diocesan priests and retired Precious Blood priests. You’re helping to educate future priests.’” Finally, the concrete work on the church driveway and parking lot completed during the campaign is something “parishioners could see.”
Father Betzen also knew the benefits of putting a face on the campaign from his experience with such fundraising efforts. He recalled for parishioners the previous pastors who had served them well at St. Mary and reminded them that newly ordained Father Dale Mallory would begin serving the parish in September.
The pastor was especially appreciative of the parish’s Chuukese community (from the Federated States of Micronesia) for contributing as families and as a community. On July 10, some 60 Chuukese arrived at the church for lunch and brought in bags of rice, frozen chicken and other foodstuffs to raffle off afterwards. “They raffled it off with rolls of $1 tickets. By 9 o’clock that night, they had raised $3,620. Every 20 or 30 minutes they’d raffle off some of the goodies,” Father Betzen said, amazed by how much the small community raised. “It was a good way to see the community in action.”
Knowing that the Hispanic community and the Chuukese community make donations in cash, he spoke separately with representatives of each community about the importance of the campaign and then distributed envelopes to collect cash donations, which parishioners placed in the collection basket during Mass.
When the capital campaign began at St. Mary Parish in Wilton, Parish Life Coordinator Deacon Dan Freeman was new in his role there. Two parish council members stepped up to serve as team leaders and “were instrumental in helping to set the tone of the capital campaign,” he said. The team leaders identified nine volunteers to make direct contact with fellow parishioners, which “helped us go over our goal,” he said.
Initially, there was some pushback. “But as people found out the extent, purpose and intent of the campaign, most were openly supportive.” Parishioners understood priests have medical bills and deserve retirement income. “People know these priests and appreciated their service. They also understand the financial burden a college education can be for future seminarians. They know that if they do not support them now, there might not be priests to serve us in the future.”
The funds that St. Mary earns from the campaign will help enhance the Mass experience for parishioners through an updated and improved sound system and possibly adapters for the hearing impaired. “We will also look at the possible purchase and installation of lighting in the new north parking lot. A third item includes promoting and providing faith formation activities and materials for all ages in the parish,” Deacon Freeman said. “The parishioners of St. Mary are so very generous and giving in many ways. They are family as they reach out to one another and to all in need … their example is contagious.”
Father Timothy Armbruster, C.PP.S, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Melrose, said one anonymous donor pledged a significant donation during the capital campaign’s silent phase gift process. Aside from that generous gift, the parish continues to support the campaign, having reached nearly 70% of goal.
St. Patrick Parish will use its portion of funds for some updating and improvement projects in the various parish buildings. “We continue to assess the needs of the parish and look to be good stewards in responding to those needs the best we can,” he said.
Parishioners of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport have participated in several campaigns in recent years, including the cathedral’s diocesan center, reconstruction of the cathedral’s front stairs, and window covering issues among other projects, said Father Thom Hennen, the pastor.
He and the parish finance council all agreed that the cathedral parish should participate in the pilot wave of the capital campaign because “we felt we are the cathedral and we need to be in the lead group.”
Cathedral parishioners Jack and Anna Harris took the lead and recruited many others to help spread the word and campaign workload. The diocesan video “was excellent and set a very positive attitude among the parishioners,” Father Hennen said. The Vietnamese community “came out in force” to help the parish reach its goal as well, which he appreciates.
Father Hennen said the campaign’s components — supporting priests in retirement, seminarians in education and parishes in their needs — sold themselves. “We need to take care of those who took care of us,” he added, referring to diocesan priests. The video showed priests such as Father Tom Stratman, a retired diocesan priest who served at the cathedral from 1994-96 and was in residence early in his retirement. Seeing his and other familiar faces was helpful. “He also baptized me in Ottumwa,” Father Hennen pointed out.
With its share of campaign funds, the parish would like to replace the doors facing 10th Street, with hardware as close as possible to the look of the cathedral. In addition, the lower level of the diocesan center “needs some sprucing up,” Father Hennen said. The small conference room is good for small meetings and the diocesan hall is great for larger crowds, but those groups that fit in between could use a “medium space” room. Other potential projects include youth engagement, he said.