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Ignite the Faith campaign strives for impact on Catholic education


More than half of $40 million being raised in the archdiocese's Ignite the Faith capital campaign is going to Catholic education and faith formation programs delivered in schools and parishes - helping plant seeds of knowledge and faith among the young and old.

That $25 million commitment by the archdiocese - and the generosity of donors as the campaign moves from last fall's pilot wave of 18 parishes to three waves of parish fundraising through 2014 - is not lost on Patrick Slattery, superintendent of the archdiocese's 70 elementary and high schools.

"It's a fabulous means of support for our schools," Slattery said. "Teachers and administrators feel empowered by the archdiocese's level of commitment. And Catholic education is a great benefit to the church as a whole."

Shannan Brommer, director of the archdiocese's Stewardship and Development Office, said months of studying the archdiocese's needs and gathering input from parish and school leaders, clergy, major supporters and others found strong support for Catholic education. Keeping that tradition strong in the archdiocese was second only to supporting the clergy by meeting the retirement needs of priests and encouraging vocations to the priesthood, goals also being met by the campaign.

"There is such a strong and excellent Catholic education tradition in this archdiocese," Brommer said. "The funds from this campaign are focused on ensuring this tradition is available for many more generations, by providing strategic support for schools, faith formation, marketing efforts and scholarships for teachers."

As they planned the campaign, Archbishop George J. Lucas and other archdiocesan officials established ways to help education and faith formation in all schools and parishes, while laying out specific assistance for rural and urban areas. They include:

· $7.5 million for need-based school grants, with applications based on three- to five-year strategic plans being developed by each archdiocesan school.

· $2 million to market all archdiocesan schools.

· $4 million for Catholic education in rural areas, based on rural parishes retaining 40 percent of what they raise in the campaign to help their schools and religious education programs.

· $3.5 million to help launch the Catholic School Consortium of five elementary schools - Our Lady of Lourdes, Holy Cross, St. Thomas More and Ss. Peter and Paul, all in Omaha, and St. Bernadette in Bellevue. The consortium also is serving as a laboratory or incubator for other education initiatives, including data-driven ways to help students and teachers become more effective and incorporating technology into the classroom.

· $5 million for the Christian Urban Education Service (CUES), which helps guide and raise money for three inner-city schools: Sacred Heart, Holy Name and All Saints.

· $1.6 million to start a School of Faith training program for Catholic school teachers that began this school year in the consortium, and two Bellevue schools, St. Mary and St. Matthew the Evangelist, and will be expanded across the archdiocese.

· $1 million for a teacher scholarship fund.

· $400,000 to help parishes provide youth ministry programs and an online faith formation program for catechists and parish ministers.

One important aspect of the campaign - providing money to help market Catholic schools - soon should begin bearing fruit, with the Catholic Schools Office and other archdiocesan officials narrowing their search for a public relations firm to four finalists and expecting a decision in a few months, Slattery said. The first television, radio, social media and print advertisements could come out in late summer or early fall, he said.

And all of the money raised by the capital campaign for education will be carefully considered and distributed, Slattery said.

"We need to make sure that we are using any and all of those dollars strategically and wisely," Slattery said. "Donors are being extremely generous through this campaign. We need to do our part to make certain it is done right."

Areas being addressed by the capital campaign beyond education and faith formation include each parish retaining 10 percent - or a total of about $4 million - of what they raise for local needs, such as reducing debt, completing capital improvement projects or supplementing parish endowments.

Other goals include raising $7 million to fully fund the priest pension plan, encourage vocations to the priesthood and educate seminarians and $4 million to meet unfulfilled intentions and the costs of running the campaign, including marketing material, travel and events.

The Catholic Voice

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