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Parishes Raise $12 million for 'Living Stones' Campaign

July 15, 2015 - Al Frank, Associate Publisher, The Catholic Advocate

The second phase of the $90 million “We Are Living Stones” archdiocesan campaign is about to launch as pledges by parishes in the first stage reached 65 percent of their goals.Archbishop John J. Myers praised pastors for their leadership and the faithful for their generosity, even as the pledge phase continues in some of the 52 parishes in the first phase. He said he believed the $12 million pledged so far was a recognition by parishes that they are the “prime beneficiaries,” because they will receive half the total they collect, and that none of the money funds archdiocesan administration.

The campaign is “really needed to build for the future,” the archbishop added, noting a survey by the archdiocesan properties management office determined that churches, schools and other parish facilities will need some $125 million in renovations in the next decade.

Parishes can use their campaign cash for those purposes and other pastoral needs they list in case statements each develops prior to fund raising. In addition, they will share in the proceeds of a new $8 million fund for parish renewal. Parishes will be able to request funds to spend on parish faith formation programs, including evangelization and training for pastors, catechists and lay leaders.

Another $18 million is dedicated to a new endowment for tuition assistance in archdiocesan Catholic schools; $8 million to increasing the endowment for seminarians and $6 million for the growing medical expenses of retired priests.

The archbishop made his comments on June 22 at an information session for the next cohort at St. Mary in Rutherford, where three pastors in the first cohort of parishes shared their experiences. All said they approached the campaign with some trepidation and, while none thought their original goals were achievable, all have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity. “I thought it was a typo,” said Father Lawrence Fama, pastor of Our Lady of Peace in Maywood, said of his $500,063 parish goal. But he said 71 percent has already been pledged, thanks to an effective parish leadership committee. “Having this goal challenges you,” said Father Michael J. Kreder, pastor of St. Mary, which had just completed a $2.5 million campaign for new roofs, boilers, doors and windows at its complex. “But our emphasis was that we must look beyond ourselves.” So far, St. Mary has pledged 37 percent of its $895,436 goal.

Michael Goodwin, executive director of Guidance in Giving, the organization helping the archdiocese coordinate the drive, said one key message is that the campaign supplements other giving. “It’s not the annual appeal with different numbers,” he said, explaining that offertory giving is expected to continue at the same or higher levels.

Goals roughly equate to annual parish offertory receipts and Goodwin said pastors find it achievable when they approach the campaign in a systematic way. “I wasn’t happy about it,” said Father George D. Gillen, pastor of St. Genevieve in Elizabeth. “Raising money and asking people of money is not on the top of my list.” But he said he changed his mind after the kick-off meeting for pastors in Summit last September, when he heard priests advocate for the greater needs of the Church of Newark.

“Our attitudes are essential,” said Father Gillen, whose parish has so far pledged half its $538,976 goal. “If parishioners believe what we’re asking, they’ll come through.”

At the meeting, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda also assured the priests and parish representatives that “one of the great assets” of the campaign are the directors assigned each parish by Guidance in Giving. Having attended receptions in a number of parishes since last year’s kickoff, the archbishop said he was impressed with the way the directors tailor the campaign to the needs of each parish.

The last group of parishes will begin the campaign in January. 


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