Capital campaign pledges top $4 million

CHARLESTON — The Diocese of Charleston’s $32 million capital campaign is off to an impressive start, according to Matt Dwyer of Guidance In Giving, Inc., the firm hired to conduct the effort.

For the past 12 weeks, 17 parishes and missions have been involved in the largest fund-raising campaign the diocese has ever undertaken, according to the campaign’s executive director.

“So far the work has been a challenge but the results have been encouraging,” Dwyer said. “These 17 parishes, the majority located in the Charleston area, have been appealing to parishioners for pledges to support their parish needs, priests’ retirement, seminarian education, and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, to name a few items included in the campaign.”

This first initiative, Block I, is in its final stages and the total amount pledged is over $4,632,809, with approximately $600,000 of that in cash payments. This means 88 percent of the collective goal was achieved from 15 percent, or 858 households, of the entire first block of parish targets.

“The level of participation will continue to be our main focus from here until the end of the year,” Dwyer said. “We have been very pleased with the results from our first block. They are truly leading the way for the rest of our diocese. We still have some work ahead of us and our pastors and lay leaders have committed themselves to making their campaigns a success.”

The campaign funds will also benefit Hispanic ministry, Catholic education, a conference center, Catholic Charities Endowment, support for religious orders in the diocese and the 2006 Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal. Parishes are responsible for promoting and discussing the diocesan needs through receptions, presentations from the pulpits, personal visits, and direct mail.

“Each parish has a financial target to shoot for that is based on their annual offertory or collections for one year,” Dwyer said. “Parishes are asked to follow a 12-week fund-raising plan that asks families to support these ministries with their prayers and financial support.”

“The diocese has now achieved 15 percent of the overall $32,000,000 goal,” he said. “Block II is set to begin in January and Block III will begin in August of 2006.”

Bob Abele, chairman of the effort for Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island, said that parishioners have been receptive to the campaign.

“I think that most of those who have talked to me have been both surprised about the size of the diocese and many of the activities that are going to benefit from the proceeds of the campaign,” he said. He cited the support provided to seminarians and the fact that this is one of the few dioceses that provides such support. He also mentioned the growing need to provide for retired priests.

“While I think that many knew about these activities, few were aware of the needs they had and most were responsive in being willing to support such activities,” Abele said.

He felt that the percentage of money the parish will receive from the campaign is particularly motivating.

“The response would not have been anywhere near as great if the parish were not going to get something out of it,” he said.

John Carpenter, chairman of the campaign committee for St. Philip Benizi Church in Moncks Corner, agreed with Abele.

“We were extremely gratified at the bishop’s insistence on sharing the first fruits with us at the parish,” he said.