Declaring that the faithful have a great heart for God and for the Church, Bishop David Zubik announced the extraordinary response to the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s historic initiative, Our Campaign for The Church Alive!
With the goal of strengthening parishes and evangelizing, more than 44,000 donors representing about 130,000 Catholics in 200 parishes have pledged gifts to the campaign totaling $230,309,054.
The average pledge was about $5,000 over five years.
To date, $62,667,752 has been received and already is having a positive impact across the diocese.
The financial target of the campaign was to raise at least $125,000,000 to help invigorate evangelization, revitalize sacramental life, support education, train clergy and lay leaders, and serve the poor and marginalized. Additional funds will be used only for previously approved and specific parish and diocesan-wide priorities.
“We need to dream big, say ‘Yes!’ and roll up our sleeves,” Bishop Zubik told more than 500 campaign volunteers at a Mass of Gratitude at St. Paul Cathedral on January 25. “When we do that, then the dream of Jesus is coming true.”
The announcement marks the close of the two-year Solicitation Phase of the campaign. The rolling, five-year Pledge Redemption Phase will end in 2019.
Well over 70 percent of campaign funds will directly or indirectly benefit parishes. The initial target was $50 million for parishes; they are now anticipated to receive approximately $96 million.
In addition to strengthening parishes, Our Campaign for The Church Alive! supports 17 priorities across the diocese, including evangelization, need-based tuition grants for children in Catholic elementary and secondary schools, religious education, seminarian formation, support for retired and senior priests, Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center, and our brothers and sisters in the missions.
None of the funds are designated for regular operating expenses of parishes or the diocese.
The clergy led by example, personally donating nearly $4 million on a target of $500,000, while also visiting parishioners to ask for gifts and recruiting campaign volunteers. Bishop Zubik praised their leadership.
“I have been profoundly moved by the generosity of our priests and deacons,” Bishop Zubik said. “It is an overwhelming testimony of their love for God, their sacrificial commitment to ministry and their tireless efforts to reach everyone in our six counties with the good news of Jesus Christ.”
More than 2,000 lay leaders conducted campaigns in their own parishes, asking fellow parishioners for sacrificial gifts and helping to keep administrative costs low. Of each dollar pledged, 93 percent or more goes directly to ministry.
“The people who served as our campaign volunteers didn’t learn to be fundraisers; they became evangelizers who called others to put their treasure where their heart is,” Bishop Zubik said.
To ensure the diocesan-wide priorities are followed, a separate non-profit corporation with a volunteer board of directors was created to manage and oversee the campaign funds and make grants based solely on the components in the diocesan case for support.
The board already has awarded nearly $9 million for diocesan-wide priorities such as expanding dental services at the Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center, improving outreach to families of students with special needs, and encouraging vocations to the priesthood.
Parishes have received more than $13 million for priorities that include hiring youth ministers, making buildings handicap-accessible, and refurbishing churches to make them more conducive to worship.
The financial success of the campaign to date does not mean the Church is without economic challenges. There are a number of parishes in areas that have seen a large decline in population and are struggling to make ends meet.
While campaign monies cannot be used for operating expenses, funds are helping many parishes pay for long-deferred maintenance projects, evangelization and pastoral outreach to bring people to Jesus and strengthen the parish.
“I rejoice in the tremendous commitment to living and spreading the gospel that these gifts represent,” Bishop Zubik said. “It shows that our people love their faith and are willing to make sacrifices for it.
“Now that we are aware of how much God has blessed us in this campaign, the question we must now ask is, ‘what is the next step that God wants each of us to take?’ The answer: to continue to be excited about our faith!” Bishop Zubik said.