Stewards of the church

Father_Timothy_Elmer_1_BW

Father_Timothy_Elmer_1_BWParish stewardship program enables parishes to increase their giving

By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer

In 1992, the U.S. Catholic Bishops published “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.” The pastoral letter makes it clear that stewardship is not a fundraiser or is it all about money. Stewardship is, as the bishops stated, “An expression of discipleship, with the power to change how we understand and live out our lives.” To be a disciple of Jesus Christ means to be a steward of God’s gifts. In their letter, the bishops defined a Christian steward as one who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible manner, shares them in justice and love with others and returns them with increase to the Lord.

Kit Parker, director of the diocesan Stewardship and Development Office, said that everyone is called to provide time, talent and treasure based on their ability to do so.

One part of stewardship involves increasing each parish’s financial resources so that they can continue their ministries and programs.

Parker explained that a number of parishes within the diocese have utilized the “increased offering program” to increase their financial means. The program has been in existence for approximately three years. “Basically, parishioners are asked to pledge an increase in their financial support to their parish,” said Parker.

The appeal is typically done in the fall, over a three to five week time frame. Some parishes choose to employ a professional consultant, while others choose to carry out the program themselves. “For those who choose to do it themselves, there is an average of a 10 percent increase in funds, and for those who use a consultant, there is no less than a 25 percent increase and it is sustainable,” said Parker. “The 18 parishes who have completed the program have brought in $1.1 million to deliver their programs and services.”

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Utica has decided to handle the increased offering program by themselves this year, after using a consultant for the last three years under the direction of former Lourdes finance manager, Ed DeSantico.

“This time, we’re using software to guide us through the process,” said Marie Morosco, Lourdes finance manager. “It’s saving us quite a bit of money.”

Morosco explained the procedure that the parish will use to increase giving. Jan. 26, a letter will be sent to parishioners explaining the parish’s annual intentional giving. Feb. 7-8, during weekend Masses, a former Lourdes sacristan will reflect on the time and talent segment of stewardship. The weekend of Feb. 14-15, intention cards will be distributed to those attending Mass. The cards are to be returned with an indication of the parishoner’s financial commitment. “It’s a wonderful, prayerful way to make a commitment ot our community,” said Morosco. “It reflects on the spiritual side of giving.”

Father Timothy Elmer, judicial vicar of the diocesan Marriage Tribunal Office, said he used the increased giving program in the fall of 2006 when he served as pastor at St. Margaret’s Church in Mattydale. He decided to employ the Cunneen Company, a nationally-known Catholic fundraising organization.

The stewardship campaign took place over a three-week period during Masses at St. Margaret’s. The first presentation involved a married couple who shared what St. Margaret’s meant to them, concluding that the parish was worth preserving. During the second presentation, a member of the parish council who had a background in finance informed parishioners the amount of money that was required to continue the programs and ministries of the church. The third presentation was delivered by Father Elmer on Commitment Sunday.

Father Elmer said that the Cunneen Company mailed brochures to St. Margaret’s parishioners as part of the stewardship campaign. He said that the money raised from the increased offering program was used for such things as the expenses of the parish school, the parish’s ministries, its religious education program, youth and senior programs and the food pantry. With the increased revenue, they were also able to create a part-time human development director position which had previously been eliminated.

John Grygiel, business manager at St., John the Evangelist in New Hartford, also used the services of the Cunneen Company for its increased offering program from the spring of 2005 through the fall of that year. “We had a very good response — we were satisfied with the results,” said Grygiel. “There was an increase of 20 percent in our collections.”

St. John the Evangelist had used their own personnel in previous years for the program, but they decided they wanted to take a fresh approach. “A lot of new strategies had been developed,” said Grygiel. “Whether a parish uses its own personnel or employs a consulting firm, it seems to be equally successful.”

For more information regarding the parish stewardship program call (315) 470-1730.

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