This is a story that could easily be told through numbers. And it is, in the sidebar.
Sept. 14, the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross, marked one year since the formal launch of a landmark endeavor. Coined “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante,” the vision was to reach all 122 missions and parishes in five, six-month blocks — plus a pilot phase — and wrap up in time to leave the future of the diocese on stable, yet visionary grounds of discipleship and evangelization for its 50th anniversary at the end of 2019.
The staggered time line assured no one felt overburdened with pre-planned parish-level projects. It also ensured all 14 Office of Mission Advancement staff members could adequately journey alongside the flock in their care.
By the Numbers
Days of prayer each Catholic is asked to pray about before his/her role in the effort before making a commitment
Number of parishes and missions where the campaign has wrapped up its most active phase with another 24 midway through it now
Number of parishes and missions left to reach in 2019, the same year as the diocese’s 50th anniversary
Overall goal for the campaign
(with about $43 million supporting discipleship efforts including at every parish and mission and about $51 million in targeted evangelization efforts)
Cost of tuition
Beyond those stats and the ever-changing numbers of how many parishes and missions have exceeded their goal, the number well on their way to meeting goal and participation percentages, there are also the human and spiritual sides of the “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelane” effort.
“I hope that the main thing that happens is that we will have many more missionary disciples and people of every age and culture who know Jesus Christ and love Him and therefore, invite others to follow Him,” Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said at the campaign’s onset.
One year later, there have been two separate marriages and as many births among Mission Advancement staff. They’ve formed friendships that cross parish boundaries including to the point of joining in on a pastor’s 70th birthday celebration. Staff grows closer to one another and the Lord through weekly Eucharistic Adoration.
More tangible fruit includes the welcoming of Sr. Mary Eileen Jewell, PVMI, on staff last month at Our Lady of Joy in Carefree. Part of her salary comes from funds raised during its campaign phase earlier this year. Pending projects as more funds trickle in include campus facelifts and a building remodel to house more sisters one day.
Campaign funds in other places are introducing new programs such as “Forming Intentional Disciples,” and supporting long overdue sanctuary and building improvements. Parishes are also seeing those who were invited to be part of the parish cabinet move on to other leadership roles. Some parishioners at Our Lady of the Valley, for example, are now part of the building committee.
“A lot of people are being reminded that it didn’t start with them and it didn’t end with them,” explained Cande de Leon, executive director of the Office of Mission Advancement. “All of us are recipients of the faith. We didn’t pay for it. It was a gift.”
This campaign is a chance to build the faith in the hearts of those around them now and lay the groundwork for future parishioners to do the same. The faithful at St. John Vianney in Goodyear saw that concretely when the church’s founding members were asked to stand at Mass during their campaign phase. Parish campaign leaders pointed out that those seated didn’t contribute to establishing the parish but received its benefits.
De Leon acknowledged that it’s “one of the hardest levels of sacrifice” to give without knowing who the recipient is, but doing so in faith.
“In the end, in 2019 God willing, we will see a collective effort of families that have made a significant difference in the Church,” de Leon said.
The one-month old St. John Paul II High School in Avondale stands as a permanent reminder of collective efforts making a difference. Some $23 million from the campaign is being allotted to make higher Catholic education accessible to the fastest-growing part of the diocese.
Kristin Smith, a parish campaign manager who has guided at least a dozen parishes and missions through the process so far, has found on a whole that parishioners are grateful to be part of “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante.” Some have expressed missing the campaign once it’s over because of the teamwork and fellowship it fostered.
“Everybody is happy to see what is happening in the next phase. They’re prayerful cheerleaders for the next group. They want to see them succeed and see this grow further,” Smith said. They keep the prayer chain going for campaign cabinet members and parishioners in future phases.
De Leon said some parishes that were skeptical of reaching their goal far exceeded it. “For a small community, it shows that they can move mountains. They did this together. They put in their share and more. It almost instills this greatest sense of gratitude.”
Andrew Olson, a diocesan seminarian, was able to intimately convey gratitude for such an endeavor. His summer assignment was to help with campaign efforts at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center in Tempe.
The church that serves Arizona State University was not only the place where he came into the Catholic Church, but he is now also uniquely benefiting from the campaign for priestly formation. All 40 seminarians — an historic high — are wholly dependent on diocesan funding to support their tuition and basic living expenses.
The work of most Church ministries thrives because of the faithful who support it. Campaign leaders are finding churchgoers are willing to help if they know of the need and believe in the cause.
“You’re going to feel like you’re making a physical, spiritual difference in the Catholic Church. There’s no question,” de Leon said.
He advised being open to the miracles God has in store for those who participate in the campaign. “Those miracles, I almost guarantee you, won’t be in the money. It will be in the relationships. It will be in a deeper trust in the Lord and it will be in renewed enthusiasm.”
Smith coined her advice to future participating parishes differently: “Hold on to your hats and be ready.”
She said the whole parish gets excited. “They come together to join this bigger endeavor. It encompasses the fact that we’re all in this together and it becomes apparent that we’re more than just one parish.
That’s when the diocese moves adelante.