By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
More than 250 clergy, parishioners and diocesan staff from across the Diocese of Davenport have already shared their thoughts about diocesan needs pertaining to retired priests, seminarians and parishes and the possibility of conducting a capital campaign. Bishop Thomas Zinkula wants feedback from as many people in the diocese as possible.
A survey (separate from the Rediscovering Sunday survey) is now available on the diocesan website (davenportdiocese.org) to gain additional feedback, said Michael Hoffman, the diocesan director of Development and Stewardship. The diocese seeks to gauge support for three essential projects and priorities:
• Funding for priests’ medical and retirement costs.
• Funding for seminarian formation and vocations awareness.
• Individual parish needs.
“We know that our needs have grown since the last capital campaign conducted over 12 years ago,” Hoffman said. “We know that we have needs to provide for the retired priests who have served the diocese faithfully for many years and to have adequate funds available for vocations and seminary studies for individuals discerning a call to the priesthood.”
Diocesan leaders chose the Steier Group, an Omaha-based development firm that specializes in diocesan campaigns, to oversee the feasibility study. Steier will help the diocese determine which projects parishioners deem to be most urgent and to identify potential support for a capital campaign. “The initial stage, which is underway, involves interviewing as many of the clergy (active and retired) and parishioners as we can over a 90-day timeline and get their valuable feedback,” Hoffman said.
“We need to know whether there would be enough support from the parishioners to launch a campaign. We need as many individuals as possible to attend upcoming town hall meetings and/or complete a survey via mail or online.” The first town hall meeting is Aug. 2 at 7 p.m. at St. Patrick Parish in Ottumwa. (See additional meeting dates below).
“Our hope is that many individuals complete the survey so that we can make an educated, informed decision on next steps. This is one of the most important initiatives the diocese has conducted since the last capital campaign in 2008,” Hoffman said.
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. “We know that we do not have adequate funds available for the long term to fund basic retirement needs and healthcare,” Hoffman said. The diocesan Priests’ Aid Society for many years has funded basic retirement and healthcare costs for retired clergy largely through an endowment funded by parish assessments. These funds supplement traditional benefits priests receive through Social Security and other retirement savings.
“We also provide health insurance benefits to both active and retired clergy and those healthcare costs have risen over the past few years. If we do not plan for the future now, assets allocated to this will be eroded,” Hoffman said.
An endowment of $30 million earning 4% interest would generate $1.2 million per year toward retirement and medical benefits for retired priests, making the fund more self-sufficient in covering costs and less reliant on parish assessments. The endowment currently stands at $14 million, according to the diocesan Finance Office.
The need for additional men to answer the call to priesthood is crucial as more priests retire, diocesan leaders say. Currently, eight men are in formation to discern their calling to the priesthood. Their education averages $41,000 per year per seminarian, most of whom spend five to six years in formation. The diocese funds that education and formation to eliminate any concern that a man discerning a call to the priesthood can’t afford seminary. Helping men to discern their calling to the priesthood is a responsibility of all Catholics and one that the diocesan Vocation Office oversees.
An endowment of $8.75 million earning 4% interest would generate $350,000 per year toward vocations and seminarian formation without touching the endowment’s principal. That $350,000, at today’s cost, could fund the education of the eight seminarians. The diocese welcomes the opportunity to fund the education of a higher number of seminarians by raising awareness of vocations.
Pope Francis said, “If the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.”
The need and value of healthy, vibrant parish life has become more apparent in the wake of COVID-19. Healthy parishes have been able to move beyond maintenance of their parish to a collective frame of mind focused on mission, Bishop Zinkula believes. A share of funds raised in a capital campaign would go to each parish in order to strengthen their emphasis on mission. Each parish would identify its particular projects to fund.
For more information about feasibility study, survey or town hall meetings, contact Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (563) 888-4252.
Here is the schedule for the listening sessions for the capital campaign, which is different from Rediscovering Sunday.
• Aug. 2, 7 p.m., St. Patrick-Ottumwa
• Aug. 11, 7 p.m., Divine Mercy-Burlington
• Aug. 17, 7 p.m., St Paul the Apostle-Davenport
• Aug. 18, 7 p.m., St Patrick-Iowa City
• Aug. 24, 7 p.m., St John Vianney-Bettendorf
• Aug. 25, 7 p.m., St Joseph-Dewitt
• Aug. 31, 7 p.m., Sacred Heart-Newton