Advancing the Mission was launched by Bishop David Zubik in late 2007 and was conducted in three, six-month phases in all parishes of the diocese. It featured five components: a parish ministry component and four endowments. Parishes retained 50 percent of the gifts collected, which were to be used for parish ministry. The remaining 50 percent was placed into four endowments.
In his homily, Bishop Ricken told the congregation that he was grateful for the accomplishments made by everyone involved. “Tonight we truly do lift our prayers of thanksgiving for this wonderful growth process called Advancing the Mission,” he said. Witnessing how the campaign has already benefited parishes and created endowments for future ministry needs has been a blessing, added Bishop Ricken.
He noted that, having served in Green Bay for just one year, the difficult work of launching the campaign had been handled by his predecessor, Bishop Zubik. Earlier in the day, said Bishop Ricken, he called Bishop Zubik to thank him.
“I left a message on his cell phone to thank him for his wonderful leadership,” he said. “I thank all of you who have been, in some way, involved and committed to this great mission that the diocese took on several years ago.”
Bishop Ricken spoke about the transformation process that takes place when people embrace stewardship. This was evident in Advancing the Mission, he noted.
“How many times in reaching out to others, I hear people say, ‘Bishop, they gave a lot more to me than I ever gave to them. … That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Being in communion with one another, in solidarity with one another. Seeing how we treat the least of our brothers and sisters is how we treat Jesus.”
Brawner reported that $29 million of the $39.6 million raised in the 160 diocesan parishes has already been paid. “More than 7 million has already been used by the parishes for the needs that they identified as the most important in the parish,” she said.
These needs have ranged from physical improvements such as new carpeting and roofing to reducing parish debt and hiring new parish ministers.
“The campaign is making an impact,” she said. “The impact is clear and will be long lasting.”
Another impact of Advancing the Mission has been the establishment of four endowments, Brawner said. These include endowments for leadership development, evangelization, lifelong catechesis and priestly retirement. Each endowment has between $1.5 million and $2 million built up and five percent of each is available for disbursal each year.
“The advisory committees for each of them have already made distributions totaling $117,000 this past year,” said Brawner. “Much of it is given in $500 and $1,000 grants.”
The evangelization endowment will help fund requests for parish needs during Catholics Come Home, a diocesan evangelization effort that will begin next February.
Beyond raising money for future church needs, Brawner said that Advancing the Mission has changed peoples’ concept of giving.
She offered four “blessings” that she and other Catholic Foundation staff members experienced through Advancing the Mission.
• Meeting parishioners across the diocese who made Advancing the Mission successful. “Campaign leaders on the parish level, you made the campaign inspiring and creative at every step,” she said.
• The campaign’s emphasis on stewardship as a way of life. “Changing peoples’ hearts and minds as it relates to stewardship is difficult,” said Brawner. “However, when it works it is transformational to the life of the parish, the diocese and the greater community.”
• Witnessing how people embraced and developed a deeper relationship with God through prayer.
“Countless prayer chains, prayer circles and Bible studies began through this effort and continue today,” she said. “More than 14,000 volunteers, many of them new faces to our parishes, came forward to help … make the campaign successful. Many of them have continued their service in the parish or at the diocesan level.”
• The fourth blessing, she said, was the number of people who have contacted her office, seeking to make arrangements to fund an endowment through a will, a bequest or another type of planned gift.
“This is truly a wonderful way to continue a lifetime of stewardship by leaving a legacy to a parish or one of the endowments,” she said.
Brawner said she found some of the literature that was part of Advancing the Mission to be inspirational and life changing.
“I have seen (the literature) have a truly transformational impact on my own life,” she said. “They changed how I think and hence what I do.”
Brawner listed three challenges used during the campaign that she continues to ponder:
• “Consider not what I own, but what owns me.”
• “Not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice.”
• “Lord, what do you want to do through me right now, to benefit my parish and the greater church of Green Bay?”
“These stewardship questions change how we think,” she said. “Instead of everything revolving around a financial goal, this was a different way of looking at the impact of the campaign.”
Bishop Ricken noted that, while the capital campaign was officially ending, “we are certainly not going to give up on ‘advancing the mission’ at all. We are moving that forward according to the light of Christ, the heart of the church, the love of our vocations and the call to be generous and grateful disciples.”
The Catholic Foundation is still accepting new gifts, additional gifts or a planned or deferred gift to any one of the four campaign endowments. To learn more contact Cindi Brawner at the Catholic Foundation, Diocese of Green Bay, PO Box 22128, Green Bay, WI. 54305-2128. Phone: (920)272-8173; e-mail: [email protected]