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Team Catholic: Dream big, then do the work

By September 1, 2023March 11th, 2024Steier Tips, Steier Wire

Team Catholic.

It is a simple idea. Every member of the community working in unity to support the Catholic Church. But, in the Steier Group’s work across North America, we’ve found that’s often not the case.

You may recognize some of these issues:

  • A pastor unwilling to participate in a diocesan campaign.
  • A development director focused on the bishop’s annual appeal but not parish offertory.
  • A school principal ignoring the value of its supportive parish.

Some of this is human nature. We focus on what’s right in front of us. Seeing the bigger picture isn’t always possible. But working together towards a joint mission can help all succeed.

When the Most Reverend J. Mark Spalding became the Bishop of Nashville, he found a diocese in need of revitalization and a unity of mission.

“There was a lot of compartmentalization and unnecessary competition,” said Ashley Linville, Director of Development for the Diocese of Nashville. “Because when things are tough, it is easy for us to focus on our work and lose sight of the bigger picture and what is possible.”

That’s where the concept of Team Catholic enters the picture. Instead of diocesan offices focused on individual goals, Bishop Spalding and Brian L. Cooper, Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer of the Diocese of Nashville, worked to inspire a unity and sense of camaraderie within the diocese. It worked.

“I cannot talk enough about Team Catholic,” said Jamie Kinnaird, Steier Group Executive Vice President of Client Services and lead campaign manager on the recent diocesan campaign. “You walk into the diocesan office and everyone was so committed to the mission and goal of the diocese as a whole, as well as the campaign.”

It has gone from a unifying force to now being shorthand around the office for working together.

“Team Catholic for us is a part of our culture now” Linville said. “Those that work throughout the diocese know what we are talking about when we bring up Team Catholic. They have seen what we can do together when we have a common goal in mind.”

Under Bishop Spalding, the diocese embarked on a five-year plan of revitalization. The young bishop’s dynamic energy proved vital.

“Whether it’s data management or technology or marketing or administrative support. All those things, are part of our ministry” Linville said. “Everybody on Team Catholic has an important role to play.”

Team Catholic had its work cut out for it. Nashville ranks fifth in the list of fastest growing metro areas in the country. From 2016 to 2021, the area grew by 9.3%. That meant more Catholics to serve in an area already lacking in parishes and schools. Some parishioners have to drive an hour just to attend Mass.

The revitalization plan included a diocesan-wide capital campaign to address parish growth and expansion, Catholic education, Catholic Charities and individual parish needs.

The Diocese of Nashville partnered with the Steier Group on a campaign planning study. The final planning study report occurred in early March 2020, which meant that, by the time the A Legacy of Faith, Hope and Love campaign launched, the entire world had changed due to the global pandemic.

“On paper, we should not be celebrating a success right now, because of the timing of the campaign,” said Matt Vuorela, Chief Executive Officer of the Steier Group. “For us to be celebrating a major success is a testament to the mindset of the diocesan team and Team Catholic. They don’t operate on paper – they dream it, they put in the work and they make it happen. There is no trying to make it happen, it’ll happen. And for us to be able to partner with Nashville through those tough early pandemic months and then pivot, come up with a plan and find success, is truly astonishing.”

The campaign raised over $50 million, far surpassing the Steier Group’s low-end goal of $32 million. Thanks to funds from the campaign, construction walls are up all over the diocese. Two new parishes. One new elementary school. Two new middle schools. And over 100 active parish improvement projects throughout the 60 churches of the diocese.

“One thing I appreciate about Steier Group is it’s not a cookie cutter approach,” Linville said. “I know everyone says that. But, truly, you all listened to us. And when we needed to pivot and make changes, you all were supportive of that and worked with us.”

In addition to the new construction, the diocese has seen improvements in other key areas. The five-year average for Catholic school enrollment is up 265%. In 2023, the average weekly parish collection is up 48% from 2018. The average gift to the annual bishop’s appeal is up 101%. And the five-year average of seminarians is up 112%.

The campaign revitalized the diocese. And the effects will be felt for years to come.

“We always put people and relationships first,” said Dan Queathem, Steier Group Associate Vice President and campaign manager on Nashville’s diocesan campaign. “The right activity results in the right outcomes. If we’re there and we’re forming relationships with pastors and parish staff, we’ll get the right results. And that’s what we saw again and again in Nashville. And not just from a fundraising standpoint, but from relationship building and community building.”

During the Steier Group’s time working with the Diocese of Nashville, our staff loved the unification of the diocese under Team Catholic.

“Team Catholic is such a wonderful concept,” Vuorela said. “Before the new leadership took over in Nashville, I think it was Team Finance. And it was Team Development. And it was Team Communications. Or Holy Family Church. Or Christ the King School. Siloed communities not working together. If we can get more people across the country on board with Nashville’s idea of Team Catholic, it will bode well for the future of the Church.”

Cooper agrees that the concept of Team Catholic is important for everyone.

“All of us as Catholics and in all dioceses, we need to support each other more,” Linville said. “We should focus on the greater collective good, not solely on our individual good, because those will come in time when we work together.”