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3/29/2011 1:11:00 PM
Capital campaign: Successful parishes articulated rightness of the causes
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Bennett Kwiecinski, Matthew Sgroi and Claire Hogenson enjoy good books in the first grade classroom at St. Thomas More School in Portland. Catholic education is one of the areas to be aided by the Archdiocese of Portland's capital campaign.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Bennett Kwiecinski, Matthew Sgroi and Claire Hogenson enjoy good books in the first grade classroom at St. Thomas More School in Portland. Catholic education is one of the areas to be aided by the Archdiocese of Portland's capital campaign.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Gerry Lewin
Archbishop John Vlazny blesses window at St. Peter Church in Newberg, 2007.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Gerry Lewin
Archbishop John Vlazny blesses window at St. Peter Church in Newberg, 2007.
This is the prayer for the
O God, you sent your Son, Jesus, to be our Shepherd. At our baptism, you called us to follow the Good Shepherd who leads us on the path of life. With confidence, we look to you as we seek to follow Jesus, to share our faith and to shape the future of our Archdiocesan Church. Renew in us the desire to remain faithful to our commitment to serve you and the Church. Inspire us to walk in Jesus' footsteps and to share our gifts in service of your kingdom. As the Good Shepherd protects and guides us on our journey, we are ever grateful for your constant care. Amen.
Ed Langlois
Of the Catholic Sentinel

It’s about enthusiasm, communication and a little bravery.

That’s the lesson from leaders of western Oregon Catholic parishes that have already exceeded their goals for the Archdiocese of Portland’s $50 million capital campaign.

The campaign, called “Sharing Our Faith, Shaping Our Future,” seeks pledges from parishioners to support seminary education, priest retirement, Catholic education/faith formation and various parish needs.

“The four items were things that people could really be enthusiastic about,” says Father Rick Sirianni, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Southwest Portland. St. Thomas More started its campaign early as a pilot project and raised $708,394. That was 4 percent beyond the parish’s goal.  

“People didn’t know about all the seminarians we have now and how much that costs. They were willing to give for that,” says Father Sirianni, a veteran priest who is new to fundraising.  

The priest spoke about the campaign from the pulpit in his earnest, kind way. He formed a committee of a half dozen trusted parishioners to ask major donors personally. He himself planned one-on-one meetings to seek contributions. That was the biggest challenge for him. A good communication tool helped — a promotional DVD produced by the archdiocese. He showed it to parishioners individually.

The DVD features seminarians, Catholic school students and a retired priest, Msgr. Arthur Dernbach, a beloved former pastor of St. Thomas More. That link helped, Father Sirianni says, who sought other ways to connect potential givers to the wider need.   

The grateful pastor pointed out that students at the parish school across the yard are in need of financial aid. He explained that, as for all churches in the campaign, a quarter of the money raised would be used at the parish itself, in St. Thomas More’s case to help pay for delayed maintainence.     

Father Sirianni wanted to broaden the source of communcation, so invited a layperson to speak at Mass. Kevin Kelly, a parishioner, stood to explain why he and his wife were planning a major contribution. That had a powerful effect.  

“If we are Catholics, it is hard not to support these things,” says Kelly, a former bank executive who now owns a building heating and cooling company. “I agree with this campaign. I think they have done it correctly and they have focused on the right things. I believe the archdiocese is moving forward in a positive direction.”

Kim Randles, a St. Thomas More parishioner and Catholic Charities development chief, advised Father Sirianni during the campaign. She coaxed when he seemed hesitant, aware that the priest’s bold presence is critical.

“Parishioners love him,” Randles said. “Priests underestimate how effective they are. With each ‘yes’ he became more confident.”

Randles says that people donate because they’ve been taught to give back from their blessings. There are always some, she explains, who will refuse. But that should not discourage committees, Randles says: “For every person who doesn’t give, there are three who will.”

Randles advises that volunteers ask for more than anyone thinks a parishioner might give. She also urges finding a parishioner who will match others’ donations as an incentive. At St. Thomas More, a parishioner promised to match up to $100,000.

“We’ve got good selling points,” says Father Don Gutmann, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Newberg, which raised $326,560 or 30 percent beyond the goal. “Everybody wants priests for their kids and grandkids. People respect retired priests. We make a strong case.”

A thankful Father Gutmann, whose parish also was part of the pilot project, started out by picking 10 good people to join the committee that would meet possible donors face to face. Then he reviewed the needs the campaign would address and let his enthusiasm show.

“For a parish to get behind it, the pastor has to get behind it,” he says. “If the parishioners think the pastor believes in this stuff, they will believe in it.”

St. Peter’s committee kept up steady communication, using the parish bulletin, pulpit announcements, phone calls from parishioners and personal meetings. Some talks took place in homes, and many others happened after Mass on the parish grounds or over coffee and doughnuts.

“Face to face is helpful,” Father Gutmann says.

Scott Peavy, a retired nurse, sat on the committee and asked about a dozen people to donate an amount designated by past giving habits.

“It’s tough to go to somebody and say, ‘I know we all have our money troubles,’ and then ask for a whole bunch of money,” Peavy says.  

But he worked up his bravery and just did it. Many parshioners said yes, some said no and some wanted to think it over. It was that last group that Peavy had to pursue. Campaign protocal is to get donors to sign a pledge card fairly soon, so on the spot he made an appointment to call back or meet again.  

He asked everyone to pray for the cause.

“I didn’t get pushy with anybody,” Peavy says. “I did not try to guilt them into it.
I was not optimstic at first, but it worked.”



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