Diocese launches ‘Our Heritage, Our Hope’ capital campaign

CHARLESTON — Bishop Robert J. Baker today asked Catholics to actively support their faith when he launched “Our Heritage, Our Hope,” a campaign to raise $32,000,000 for ministries and projects throughout the state of South Carolina.

During a press conference, Bishop Baker released a statement asking Catholics to help take responsibility for the campaign’s financial and spiritual success. He asked every Catholic household in the diocese to give a gift of financial support by making a pledge that can be paid over the next four years.

“I ask you to prayerfully reflect on all the blessings God has bestowed upon you,” he said in the release. “Then, in the spirit of Christian stewardship, make a gift that reflects your gratitude for all God’s blessings to you.”

Those gifts will help fund the restoration of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, construction of a conference and retreat center in Columbia, continued outreach to the increasing Hispanic population in the state, seminarian and priest retirement funding, Catholic Charities, Catholic education, support for religious orders that minister in the diocese, and the 2006 Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal.

The largest single portion of this campaign, however, will go back to the parishes to directly support local churches, based on how much is raised for the campaign.

“Each parish will be given a financial goal that will include its regular annual appeal target,” said Matthew Dwyer, executive director of the campaign. “Once a parish surpasses its BSA goal, it will receive 50 percent or 50 cents on every dollar of everything that is raised at the parish.”

Dwyer is vice president of Guidance and Giving, a national stewardship and development firm that works exclusively with Catholic parishes, dioceses and high schools on stewardship and development efforts, particularly capital campaigns.

Why is the campaign starting now instead of at a later date? One major factor, Dwyer said, is the restoration of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral is the see of the diocese, and portions of the brownstone are beginning to deteriorate and chip away. That, combined with the structure’s impending 100th anniversary, creates an immediate need.

Another focus is the dramatic increase of the Catholic population around the state. The need to minister to a larger number of people who are worshiping in the parishes overwhelms resources. Dwyer pointed out that many of the goals for the capital campaign stem from the diocesan Synod, held from 1990-95, which evaluated a variety of ministries.

Dwyer said the bishop’s first request will be for people to listen and understand what the campaign is all about.

“Once they understand the scope of the project, people will get behind it,” Dwyer said. “It touches the core foundations of our church.”

People are asked to support the campaign by praying for it, sharing the message with others, and by financially pledging to the campaign.

“True discipleship deals more with ‘How can I help’ or ‘How can I be a part of this process,’ ‘How can I give of my time, talent and treasure.’ ” Dwyer said. “Hopefully people will look at this as an opportunity to be a part of something or a way to give of themselves.”

Active solicitation of pledges will begin this month and end in December 2006. Catholics will be solicited through parish receptions, in-pew appeals where people receive a pledge card and an envelope to return, announcements made at Mass, and a direct mailing packet that will go out to each registered Catholic household. The diocese also plans to set up a way to make contributions online.

The campaign has already seen success with the Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal for 2005, according to Dwyer.

“We coordinated with the priests of the diocese and project to surpass the goal of $2 million to a projected $2.2 to $2.4 million. In 2006, $2 million will be folded into the “Our Heritage, Our Hope” campaign for the BSA. In 2007 the Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal will return in its traditional form.”

Guidance and Giving has worked on capital campaigns with more than 25 dioceses and archdioceses over the past eight years, including the Diocese of Savannah, Ga., and St. Augustine, Fla. Dwyer said that the Diocese of St. Augustine had a goal of $30 million and raised $37 million, while the Diocese of Savannah raised $15 million on a $10 million goal to restore its cathedral and to fund its Hispanic ministry.