St. Francis of Assisi in Wichita, Kansas, is the founding parish of the Diocese of Wichita’s nationally renowned stewardship model. In the 1970’s, Msgr. Thomas McGread served as pastor at St. Francis of Assisi where he developed the stewardship model currently used by the Diocese of Wichita. As a result of Msgr. McGread’s groundbreaking work, families in the Diocese of Wichita today do not pay tuition for Catholic education and there is no diocesan annual appeal. Families, pastors, diocesan leadership and all the faithful are dedicated to tithing at such a level where tuition and annual appeals are not necessary.
With such great dedication from so many to return God’s gifts at a tithe of 10%, and having never conducted a capital campaign before, one can understand why leadership at St. Francis of Assisi entered its recent Rebuild My Church Campaign with reservations.
“Being a stewardship parish in which we try to subsume all expenses into ordinary collections, it is a hard sell to ask faithful givers to give to an extraordinary effort,” said Fr. Jarrod Lies, pastor of St. Francis. “It was necessary to couch the campaign in proper language with articulate reasons for asking for the extraordinary gift.”
With pressing needs such as a new HVAC system, new flooring and roof repairs, the parish desperately needed to conduct a campaign. So, Fr. Lies partnered with the Steier Group and went to work. The Steier Group, having managed 16+ previous successful parish, school, Catholic Charities and diocesan campaigns in the Diocese of Wichita, understood how to incorporate the language of stewardship into the campaign communications. Fr. Lies and the Steier Group recruited a large group of volunteers and leaders to ensure that the faithful, “participated in giving their time, talent, and treasure in an extraordinary way.”
Pat Burns, the director of stewardship and finance for the parish, agrees that community-wide involvement played a key role in success. “It was a grassroots effort that included many people in our parish,” Burns said. “It was parish-wide, and the vision was embraced by many good stewards.”
Supporters received a clear and concise campaign message delivered consistently. A detailed understanding of the needs— the why’s and how’s— played an important role in the campaign’s success.
“Steier worked with us to tailor our language and our efforts to the culture of a stewardship parish,” Fr. Lies said. “As a result, we got virtually no negative feedback. Many people asked hard questions and sought proper justifications, but having received an appropriate response, they were happy to support the campaign.”
Fr. Lies believes staying true to the campaign message and responding in a “timely and thorough manner” encouraged parishioners to make a faithful campaign commitment. He believes the power of the Holy Spirit played a factor as well.
“I experienced God in this (campaign) because parishioners, faithful to their parish and its mission, chose to give out of faith and share the burden among one another,” Fr. Lies said. “It is the movement of the Holy Spirit to facilitate conversations that allowed us to discern the real needs of our parish and how to meet those needs with facilities that match its mission.”
As a result of the campaign, St. Francis of Assisi will address every one of the needs identified as a goal in the campaign. But the triumph in this effort goes well beyond the installation of a new HVAC system or a new roof. Campaign success at St. Francis is also reflected in the participation numbers. The campaign raised more than $6 million, with the largest gift being $150,000 – it was truly a community effort.
Burns believes that, at the end of a comprehensive campaign, success isn’t defined only by the dollars raised.
“Faithful stewards who love their parish and believe that what we are building – as a church family – is worthwhile and worth fighting for.”
If you would like to learn more about the Steier Group’s services or other successful campaigns, please contact me at any time.