Good works of campaign continue
New boilers as needed, security systems, concrete work, technology upgrades; more staff, tuition assistance and teacher scholarships; strong overall marketing for Catholic schools, as well as formation of a five-school consortium in Omaha that is expanding enrollment: Check.
Direct support for retiring priests and men studying for the priesthood: Check.
Faith-enrichment programs for parishes and schools, including training and personal development for catechists and teachers, special offerings for children, teens and adults: Also check.
These are among the fruits of the Archdiocese of Omaha’s Ignite the Faith capital campaign, which was launched by Archbishop George J. Lucas in 2012. (More details Page 32: Impact Report)
And the campaign continues to pay dividends today as generous parishioners across the archdiocese fulfill pledges totaling $53 million, said Shannan Brommer, director of the Stewardship and Development Office.
There is another element of the campaign, as well: the enthusiasm, energy and unity it promotes as people see the impact of their generosity and the hard work and determination to make a difference of those entrusted with the funds, Brommer said.
"You can achieve a lot, and bring people together in the process," she said. "It’s building up the church."
That’s been the experience of people in schools, parishes and archdiocesan ministries who spoke about the campaign with the Catholic Voice, including Patrick Slattery, superintendent of Catholic Schools.
Teachers and others appreciate the effort put into Catholic schools, Slattery said.
And the initiatives are widespread and lasting in their impact, he said. For example, more than 100 teachers have benefited from scholarships toward advanced degrees, and several preschool programs created at schools are forming pipelines for students to advance through Catholic schools, Slattery said.
Peggy Grennan, principal of St. Margaret Mary School in Omaha, said morale is being boosted by the teacher scholarships, technology improvements in schools, the Catholic school marketing campaign and more.
"The fact they (teachers and staff) know education is important to the archbishop, they know it’s important to the archdiocese, they appreciate that," Grennan said.
One benefit for Grennan and her school has been Ignite the Faith funds to hire a part-time marketing and admissions expert, Kathleen Lighthart, Grennan said.
PRIESTS AND PARISHES
Ignite the Faith also has fully funded the priest pension plan, which helps support the archdiocese’s 48 retired priests and future retirements. The campaign also increased the archdiocese’s fund for seminarians, which currently supports 28 men in the seminary.
Ignite the Faith also allowed parishes to retain 10 percent of all funds they raise for parish-based projects and needs, and rural parishes to use an additional 40 percent of what they raise for faith-based education in schools or religious education programs.
Those provisions were an important boost for all parishes, and particularly rural parishes because it is financially difficult for them to mount major capital campaigns, said Father David Liewer, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Coleridge, St. Anne Parish in Dixon and St. Mary Parish in Laurel.
"With the archdiocese running the Ignite the Faith campaign, every parish benefits from" that groundwork, expertise and advice, Father Liewer said.
Among improvements the campaign has made possible at his parish are new books for sacramental preparation in the religious education program and six room dividers providing more privacy and quiet for PRE classes held in the hall at St. Mary Church, he said.
Father Andrew Sohm, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Ponca and St. Peter Parish in Newcastle, said parishioners there held an ice cream social two years ago to celebrate meeting their pledge goals. In many ways, the celebration continues, he said.
"It’s raised a lot more than just dollars," Father Sohm said. "It’s raised the spirits and life of both parishes."
Benefits include a new furnace at St. Joseph Church, and installation in the basement soon of two television sets to help with adult and youth ministry. With expected technology upgrades in the church, the TVs also will broadcast Masses to accommodate overflow crowds at the church. The parish also plans to broadcast Masses, funerals and weddings to the local nursing home or to parishioners serving overseas in the military who want to stay close to family and parish, Father Sohm said.
Religious education across the archdiocese also is benefiting from the campaign, said Jen Moser, interim manager of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis. That includes training for parish ministers through online My Catholic Faith Delivered, evangelization efforts through programs titled Alpha and Endow, and youth ministry such as the small-group YDisciple program, Moser said.
"There’s a lot of things we could not have offered or done" without Ignite the Faith, she said.