The pre-kindergarten class at Sacred Heart School in Troy celebrated the letter "S" last week with snow, space,
socks and sunglasses. The Evangelist welcomes and encourages photo submissions from diocesan schools and will gladly publish them in upcoming issues. (Photo provided)
The pre-kindergarten class at Sacred Heart School in Troy celebrated the letter "S" last week with snow, space, socks and sunglasses. The Evangelist welcomes and encourages photo submissions from diocesan schools and will gladly publish them in upcoming issues. (Photo provided)

It’s time to restart and re-ignite!

The Diocese of Albany has taken over running the Re-Igniting Our Faith campaign with hopes of energizing parishes that haven’t started the campaign or need one final push to meet their goal.

Changing our World — a company with expertise in fundraising whose contract expired last year —  had been administering the fundraising drive in the Diocese since the campaign started in 2017.

“I think perhaps some parishes had a slow start and, unfortunately with the timing of when Changing Our World’s contract ended, there are still quite a few parishes that haven’t started or are still in the midst (of the campaign),” said Nancy Bielawa, the diocesan executive director of Stewardship and Development, who is now charged with running the campaign. “(Changing Our World has) laid the foundation, created the materials, most of which we will continue to use and replicate in working with each parish where it matches up with their needs (while developing) some best practices that have been learned along the way.”

The Re-Igniting Our Faith campaign began in earnest in 2017 with the goal of raising $45 million by early 2019. Seventy percent of that total would go back to the parishes to address any needs they have from fixing a roof, buying a van for students or increasing evangelization. At the time, Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger wrote in a column in The Evangelist that “our future is dawning and within our sight. We are embarking on a campaign to secure the foundation for our future, which will fuel our larger vision of growing and enhancing our Catholic community of faith for current and future generations.”

Since the start of the campaign, 57 parishes have completed their efforts, 23 are near completion and another 42 are still in the process. So far, $18 million has been raised from 6,279 donors with an average pledge of $3,508. The campaign goals — listed on the website (re-ignitingourfaith.org) — remain the same: “to enhance our local church, meet increased vocations demand, care for retired clergy, ­invest in evangelization and develop Catholic schooling resources.”

“Nancy Bielawa, the executive director of our Stewardship and Development Office, has offered her expertise and service to the Re-Igniting Our Faith Foundation and, together with Barbara Perez, who has served us since its inception, they are more than able to provide for the needs of this worthwhile campaign now and into the future,” said Father David LeFort, vicar general of the Diocese and rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. “With their enthusiasm and experience, I’m confident we’ll only continue to see further success in strengthening the faith and its expansion in our parishes and people.”

Bielawa, who said she would like to have the active phase of the campaign completed by the end of 2020, wants to create a model for what has been successful for parishes in the past two years to spur others on.  

“Most parishes struggle to start because they don’t know where to start in terms of what they need to fund or what would be exciting to fund or appropriate,” Bielawa said. “(We want to create) a template, a menu of initiatives, whether they are bricks-and-mortar (projects) or program or staffing initiatives that have been successful in other parishes that were easy to fund or the parishioners were excited about, so we are not reinventing the wheel.”

Some parishes in the past have felt intimidated by the campaign or by the prospect of what would happen if they did not reach their stated goal. It’s important to remember this is a best-effort campaign.

“I went to a kickoff at St. Mary’s in Nassau a couple of weeks ago and the parishioner who did the presentation did such a good job of conveying that: Here’s our goal, if we don’t meet it, nothing happens,” Bielawa added.

Talented parishioners from other parishes that have completed their campaigns could help other parishes complete their campaigns, as well.
“Part of our role as Catholics is to help other people,” Bielawa said. “So why not help other parishes if you have folks that are interested?”