By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
Eight parishes in the Diocese of Davenport are inviting people to “Join us This Advent” through a postcard campaign.
Andy Gaertner, director of development for the Diocese of Davenport, is leading the diocesan campaign. The inspiration comes from a national campaign to bring people back to the church that takes place during Advent and/or Lent. However, it is too expensive for most parishes, he said. He noted that a campaign in the LaCrosse, Wis., Diocese where he previously worked was well received by pastors there.
So, he contacted Jake Jacks of Maxim Marketing and Graphic Services in Davenport to help with a campaign for the Davenport Diocese. “I had no budget, but asked if he was willing to explore the idea,” Gaertner said.
Although it was short notice, all parishes were contacted about the postcard campaign. The full-color, 6-inch by 9-inch postcards contain Mass and confession times, with additional times scheduled for Advent and Christmas. Eight parishes jumped on board within the two-week deadline. Another couple of parishes, Gaertner said, are interested in doing the campaign during Lent. Three parishes chose custom photos and the others chose from stock photos, he added.
“These (postcards) are professional and inviting. We want to encourage people to come past Advent too, but we are calling people to come back to church,” Gaertner said. Maxim took care of the mailing so there was no additional work for the parishes: St. Andrew-Blue Grass, St. Mary-Centerville, St. Thomas More-Coralville, Sacred Heart Cathedral-Davenport, St. Mary-Fairfield, St. Mary-Grinnell, St. Mary-Iowa City and St. Alphonsus-Mount Pleasant.
St. Thomas More-Coralville’s administrative assistant, Maricarla Rohret, and accounting manager, Katie Schneider, said the campaign provided a great opportunity to reach out to parishioners. “We want to remind them of their great church family,” Rohret said. It’s also a reminder for those who do attend Mass on a regular basis of the special Mass times for Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
Rohret said the parish chose customized photos provided by the parish for the postcard. “We have a great art and environment group who decorate the church and we had pictures. We wanted to showcase the talent of our parish.”
The parish sent its database of 1,170 families to Maxim to mail the postcards. “Andy made it so easy for us. We couldn’t turn this down,” Rohret said. “Sometimes we forget that it’s nice to be asked. You are always welcome here.”
At St. Alphonsus in Mount Pleasant, Father Paul Connolly said he thought the campaign was a great idea. And the campaign proposal came just before a parish council meeting. “They believed that encouraging our parishioners to engage fully in Advent would only enhance their Christmas celebration. They thought it would go along with the Little Blue Books that we give to the parishioners, which has a meditation for every day of Advent.”
Fr. Connolly said the council chose Advent wreath artwork for the postcard to emphasize the season. “We thought it was great that the diocese offered us the chance to participate in this program.”
Roberta Danielson, parish secretary at St. Mary in Fairfield, said the campaign is a great idea “to reach out to all our parishioners. The postcard, when received, can be put on the refrigerator or in a special place as a reminder of Advent and Christmas Masses and when the sacrament of reconciliation is celebrated.”
Danielson said the parish staff decided to do the campaign to invite fallen-away parishioners and all parishioners to celebrate Mass during Advent, Christmas season and throughout the year. The parish chose its own Christmas photos from last year to customize the postcard. “I believe it makes it more personal and eye-catching, something that will stick out when our parishioners receive this in the mail. The goal is to have our parishioners actually look at it, instead of thinking this is ‘junk’ mail,” she said.
“Jake Jacks went above and beyond to help me customize the postcard; also, thank you to Andy Gaertner for his help, too.”
“Parishes work hard, but they don’t always have the resources to do projects like this on their own,” Gaertner said. “The diocese can be a conduit and by having multiple parishes participate, we can reduce costs.”