Do More Good | Diocese of Camden
Shawn M. Trahan
Catholic Strong: A Title and a Mission
A development campaign should always be about more than just raising money. Undertaken correctly, it’s an opportunity to engage and motivate people. In the Diocese of Camden’s case, this campaign would not only bring people closer to their faith, but provide an opportunity for them to go out to the peripheries of society and bring others to God.
In late 2016, Bishop Dennis Sullivan of the Diocese of Camden, an area encompassing the six southernmost counties of New Jersey and home to about 475,000 Catholics, decreed that the Diocese would undertake its first diocesan-wide campaign in nearly 30 years.
This would be a campaign unlike any in the United States. While diocesan in scope, it was designed specifically to benefit the Diocese’s individual parishes. It would be the parishes who would receive 70 percent of the funds from the campaign, to address financial, programmatic and infrastructure concerns. Each parish would determine, on its own, what those targeted goals would be, by interacting directly with their parishioners. The remaining 30 percent of funds would be used for improvements to diocesan-wide programs in the areas of religious education, evangelization, and social services.
“There is so much good work being done in our Diocese on a daily basis. It’s amazing,” said Father Robert Hughes, Vicar General of the Diocese of Camden. “But as it has always been, new needs arrive all the time, and as a Church, we must make sure our parishes are financially prepared to provide for them.”
As with every campaign, it can be an uphill climb to get enthusiastic support from both parish leaders and the people in the pews. However, what was truly remarkable for Catholic Strong was witnessing parishes that had historically had difficulty with campaigns like this, not only succeeding, but flourishing.
These parishes, often small ones in rural areas and some in urban areas that had seen recent cultural changes, were actually among the first to meet their goals and then exceed them!
While most of that energy and effectiveness can be directly attributed to the pastors and parish leaders who fully embraced Changing Our World’s fundraising strategy, it’s also notable that the underlying mission of the Catholic Strong campaign, to foster Pope Francis’ call to missionary discipleship, was a constant point of focus as these parishes pursued their goals.
One of the first major elements that defined the direction of the Catholic Strong campaign was a major four-day convocation of Catholic leaders from around southern New Jersey. Nearly 800 people attended the March event in Atlantic City, where speakers from around the country were able to clearly articulate Pope Francis’ message of Missionary Discipleship, which the attendees were then able to bring back to their parishes.
The Catholic Strong campaign has provided years’ worth of critical financial resources to the parishes of southern New Jersey so that they are empowered to continue to meet the needs of the people.