By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Encouraged by strong support expressed in interviews and surveys, the Diocese of Davenport will move forward with a capital campaign to raise up to $30 million for projects that could include vocations and seminarian formation, priest retirement/medical needs and individual parish needs.
The Steier Group, the consulting firm that conducted a feasibility study for the diocese, projects a capital campaign will raise $24 million to $30 million. The campaign’s Priests Committee, led by Fathers George McDaniel and Ross Epping, will recommend the final goals and their amounts to Bishop Thomas Zinkula, who will make the final determination. The first of three waves of the two-year campaign likely will take place in the first half of 2022, with the final parish campaigns occurring in 2023.
“More than 1,000 people in the diocese were interviewed or completed a survey, and I am happy to report that the results were largely positive,” Bishop Zinkula said in a letter to feasibility study participants and The Catholic Messenger. He expressed a sense of urgency to move forward with the campaign. “I see this as a landmark project for the diocese, one that will honor our past, enhance our present, and create a foundation for our future.”
“It is an important complement to Vision 20/20, our ongoing evangelization initiative to draw people to the church, or perhaps back to the church. These evangelization and stewardship projects will help us fulfill our mission of living and sharing our faith, and thereby creating more disciples,” the bishop said.
This year, Steier consultants conducted 195 personal interviews and received 833 surveys completed by mail, online and in listening sessions. The consultants found 71 percent of participants in favor of the campaign and 79 percent would make a personal gift.
“Participants rated all three of the proposed goals as high to moderately high priorities in the following order: vocations and seminarian formation, priest retirement/medical needs and individual parish needs,” the consultants said. Steier noted that clergy support is high and that even those who were not in favor of a campaign emphasized they would give their best effort if it were to take place. Many respondents expressed significant worries about the timing of a campaign due to COVID, inflation and the decrease in Mass attendance.
However, “In the age of COVID, the Steier Group has seen excellent responses in campaigns across the U.S. and in Canada,” said Bob McDonald, senior campaign manager for the Omaha-based development firm that specializes in diocesan campaigns.
“Generally, Catholics love their Church and love their parishes and don’t want to see them decline as we wait for COVID to go away. The challenges parishes face, here and everywhere, will get worse if no action is taken,” McDonald said.
“It is not the best time for some people to give, certainly. Others are more fortunate and are very willing — eager, even — to help. We are seeing that right now with the Annual Diocesan Appeal, which funds the diocese’s day-to-day operations. We all make our own decisions as stewards of God’s gifts,” said Michael Hoffman, the diocesan director of Development and Stewardship.
Dr. Gerald Schleier of All Saints Parish in Keokuk views the capital campaign as important to the well-being of all parishes in the diocese. “If the body is not strong, we (parishes) can’t be either.” Through the capital campaign, “We support our priests and the education of our seminarians. If we don’t have the resources, then how can we support our Church in the future? It’s our responsibility to support our priests (from seminary education to active ministry to retirement),” he said.
Shannon Hardigan and her husband, Andrew, a deacon candidate, have witnessed the many services and activities the diocese provides through the deacon formation program and their family’s participation at Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton. “We’re coming at it from a different perspective with Andy in the deacon formation program and seeing how much work goes into that program,” Shannon said.
She and her husband also support fostering vocations to the priesthood through seminarian formation. “We need more priests.” They appreciate the many different programs and activities the diocese provides, ranging from social justice to youth ministry to parish support. Her husband’s discernment of a vocation to the diaconate has raised their awareness of the connections between the parishes and the diocese, Shannon said.
Capital campaign mission:
The Diocese of Davenport identified three critical areas of need for funding through a capital campaign, the first in 12 years:
Priests’ medical/retirement/ insurance costs
As of April 2021, the diocese had 31 active priests between the ages of 60 and 70, which is more than a third of all active diocesan priests, according to diocesan records. At present, 35 priests are retired. The diocese does not have adequate funds available for the long term to fund basic retirement and healthcare costs for retired clergy, Hoffman said. These funds supplement traditional benefits priests receive through Social Security and other retirement savings. The diocese also provides insurance benefits for active and retired clergy.
Eight men are in formation to discern their calling to the priesthood. Their education averages more than $40,000 per year per seminarian, most of whom spend five to six years in formation. The diocese funds their education and formation to eliminate any concern that a man discerning a call to the priesthood cannot afford seminary.
Under the preliminary plan, a share of funds raised in the capital campaign would go to each parish in order to strengthen their emphasis on mission. Each parish would identify its particular projects to fund.
Bishop Zinkula asks the faithful to pray for the campaign’s success and suggests using the Vision 20/20 prayer, which includes this line: “Yes, O God, send us your Spirit in a new Pentecost: Renew our hearts, renew our Church, renew our world.”
For more information about the capital campaign, contact Michael Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (563) 888-4252.
(Anne Marie Amacher contributed to this article.)