Home by home, family by family, one meeting at a time …
Parishes in the first phases of the Diocese’s Faith to Move Mountains endowment campaign have based their efforts on a series of personal visits and conversations with their community members.
And judging by the numbers, that approach is paying off.
According to information gratefully reported by the diocesan Department of Development and campaign leaders, Faith to Move Mountains has been completed in only 40 percent of the 107 parishes, but has already garnered more than 50 percent of the $75 million goal in pledges. As of mid-May, nearly $40 million in pledges have come in from almost 12,000 donors, while the campaign has yet to play out in Block 3 parishes and has not begun in Block 4 parishes.
This fundraising milestone inspired a message of thanks and affirmation from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., May 13. Announcing that the campaign surpassed the mid-point, the Bishop explained, “For those yet to participate in Faith to Move Mountains, we are engaging our parishes and donors in supporting the sustainability of the Diocese through endowments that will keep funding our major ministries well into the future. The interest from these endowments will generate valuable income year after year.”
Bishop O’Connell commended all who have been involved in the campaign, saying,
“Pastors, priests, deacons and the faithful have willingly stepped out of their comfort zones to ask parishioners to consider a significant sacrificial gift to the campaign. And many parishioners have accepted their invitation because they understand and see the need.”
He continued, “We are truly blessed with the generosity being shown by our volunteers, clergy and donors. There is still more that needs to be done. As Bishop, I know I can continue to count on you and I am deeply grateful.”
All About the Team
In an interview with The Monitor, Steve Nicholl, the Diocese’s director of development, also had high praise for the pastors and the lay leadership in the parishes where F2MM was conducted, crediting them for creating the successful outcomes seen. He observed,
“We are extremely encouraged by all those that have embraced the diocesan case and truly partnered with us.”
Matthew Stoessel of Changing Our World, the firm implementing the campaign for the Diocese, concurred, stating, “People are hesitant to raise money. It can be scary to ask parishioners to make such a sacrificial pledge. But they trusted the plan and the process, and set aside any fears they may have had.”
The two offered a special note of praise for the pastors, given their already chock-full schedules. Stoessel remarked, “They committed themselves to spending the 3-5 hours per week over a period of four to six months to make this happen – investing their time in planning, communicating with their people and providing updates as things moved along. They put themselves in front of people, attending meetings and talking to their parishioners about the case.”
Nicholl also shared what he has observed among the pastors of successful parishes, “Once they made it a priority, they were able to make it work. Some things had to move to the back burner, yes, but they made time for what needed to happen.”
Stoessel said of the volunteers and donors, alike, “For them, it was not just important to the local parish, but the Church as a whole. In a very real sense, people understood the connection with Faith in Our Future (the Diocese’s pastoral planning initiative).”
A spiritual current ran through the experience, according to Nicholl. “It definitely was about more than the money. The F2MM teams regarded it as a ministry. They took on the mantle of the apostles and set out in a spirit of service.”
Sharing Their Stories, Wisdom
As campaign organizers push forward with Blocks 3 and 4, the wisdom and experience gained from the earlier phases serves to guide and inspire the new teams involved. Parish teams from Block 3, which unfolded in February, were called together April 18 for an official “Block Party”, during which they met with Bishop O’Connell and others who shared insight gained during Blocks 1 and 2, as well as powerful and moving personal testimony.
Reflecting on the theme, Faith to Move Mountains, Bishop O’Connell shared how his faith had helped him to “move a mountain” on a personal level following his 2014 surgery, during which his lower left leg was amputated, and his recovery process.
The Bishop said that he had help in facing that mountain, adding that he put his faith in his physicians, who would ensure his proper medical care; in the priests of the Diocese who were supportive, and “all the parishioners who prayed for me.”
“Most of all,” he said, “I faced it with faith in my God,” said Bishop O’Connell, recalling Jesus’ teaching that if a person has the faith the size of a mustard seed, he or she would be able to make a mountain move.
“Nothing is impossible with God,” said Bishop O’Connell. “What an awesome assurance that is for all of us to hear those words now 2,000 years later.”
Looking to the parishes and its people, Bishop O’Connell said he has “seen and felt the faith of our great people, but there are still plenty of mountains to move as well.”
“This is our Church, this is our home and we are getting ourselves ready for the future,” he said.
“The future Church is going to look a lot different” than it did in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s.
“We can move forward,” he said. “I believe it and it will take a lot of prayer and determination. We have to be convinced that we can move forward and it will take sacrifice and generosity on the part of our people.”
A Pastor’s Perspective
As the pastor of three Mercer County parishes, Msgr. Michael J. Walsh told the Block 3 parish teams what he learned in spearheading the campaign in his communities.
“The day I made a pledge, I felt like a load was lifted and I felt much freer to ask the next person to make a sacrificial pledge,” he said. He encouraged the Block 3 teams to “start praying about making your own pledge because it does free you up to approach others.”
Msgr. Walsh admitted that at first it was a bit of a “struggle” to make arrangements to meet with individuals for the campaign, given the demands of his schedule. He soon determined, however, that the best way to meet with parishioners was to do so at their convenience – when they were available. “I had to be there when they were able to be there, not when I wanted them to be there.”
While Msgr. Walsh said that his three parishes – St. James, Pennington; St. Alphonsus, Hopewell, and St. George, Titusville – were working toward reaching their respective goals, “I have to trust in God and I have to trust that the process that has been prepared is going to work. I have to allow it to work and know that it’s not the ‘Walsh way,’ but the ‘process’ way.’”
In her testimony at the Block 3 gathering, Maria Guzman-Paczkowski, who, along with her husband, serves on the campaign volunteer leadership committee for St. Mary Parish, Bordentown, admitted that they first thought the process would be difficult.
She shared, “I never wanted to ask people for money.”
But after time and prayer, they reconsidered, especially when she remembered the saying, “never be ashamed to ask people for money if you know from the bottom of your heart that it is for a good cause.”
In time, she said, “Stephen and I realized [Faith to Move Mountains] is a good cause.”
As a staff member in the Diocesan Chancery, Guzman-Paczkowski said she has come to appreciate all that the Diocese does to provide to the parishes, organizations and people in need. “It is astonishing,” she said.
“The phone calls that the Diocese responds to regularly are heartbreaking. Yet the Diocese and the parishes are always there to help. The Church does not leave us orphaned,” she said, citing how outreach is available for the unemployed, during natural disasters “and the situations that individuals and families have to deal with day to day – addictions, violence, mental illness, etc.
“There are no words to express the beautiful things that happen behind the scenes in the parishes and in our Catholic organizations with the help of the Diocese,” she said. Guzman-Paczkowski added that the endowment proceeds will directly support the care of the retired priests, as well as outreach to young people, Catholic education and evangelization and faith formation efforts.
She remarked, “A living Church continues day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year, decade to decade and century to century. And if we are truly believers of Jesus Christ and his teachings, then this is our calling – to ensure that the future of the Church will remain alive and strong until the Lord returns.”
Story reposted with permission. Story by Rayanne Bennett, Associate Publisher and Mary Stadnyk, Associate Editor, TrentonMonitor.com