St. Alexander Parish illustration
Architect's sketch shows hoped-for construction at St. Alexander Parish.
St. Alexander Parish illustration
Architect's sketch shows hoped-for construction at St. Alexander Parish.
CORNELIUS — Doubt came first, then fascination.

The Presbyterial Council of the Archdiocese of Portland, a group of priests who advise Archbishop Alexander Sample, has approved a plan for the parish in Cornelius to pursue crowdsourcing to build a much-needed new church.

St. Alexander Parish has grown quickly, but its members are largely low-wage workers who cannot afford to donate enough to build a church. Parish leaders have been working hard to get the parish's success story known in broad circles where possible support may reside.

Crowdsourcing is an internet strategy in which groups seek small donations from a lot of people. The idea goes back centuries to 17th century book printing, but has achieved unparalleled energy in the internet age, with platforms like Kickstarter funding tens of thousands of creative projects.

Though churches have used crowdsourcing, St. Alexander appears to be the first Catholic parish to try to raise money this way to build a new house of worship. The parish will use IndieGoGo, a platform established in 2008 to fund drama. Its founders come from the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley.    

"Lots of new businesses and non-profits use it," says Michael Moiso, an attorney funded by a benefactor to oversee the building project. "Portland is a hub for this."
The site will keep a running tally of donations.

St. Alexander is hoping to raise $500,000 in six months from crowdsourcing as part of a campaign to build a $3 million church. The parish now must have worshipers sit in classrooms and watch Mass on a screen, especially during the five Spanish liturgies held each weekend.  

At first, members of the Presbyteral Council were dubious. Then Moiso and Father David Schiferl, pastor of St. Alexander, came to explain.

Msgr. Patrick Brennan, a Presbyteral Council member and pastor of St. Mary Cathedral in Portland, was among the hesitant. Now he calls church crowdsourcing an exciting new idea.

"I was taken by the boldness of it," Msgr. Brennan says. "Many people are interested in assisting beyond their own parish."

He thinks the story of St. Alexander — successful in service and evangelization but cash poor — will appeal.

"Let's just see," Msgr. Brennan says. "We might all be surprised."

The parish will be in IndieGoGo's religion category. As expected, the wide-open funding forum has a variety of projects, including a church of rock and roll music and a church dedicated to Satan. Some projects have earned little to nothing, while some got a portion of their goal.

"It is a worldwide platform," says Moiso. "Those who save animals or serve homeless people may get a lot. That won't happen for us."

Moiso plans to blanket organizations worldwide to drive them to the website to help.