It’s a milestone moment in the Albany Diocese: All nine of the pilot parishes who spearheaded the diocesan-wide “Re-Igniting Our Faith” campaign have not only successfully completed their initiatives, they’ve surpassed their collective goal.

According to Re-Igniting Our Faith officials, the pilot parishes established a collective goal to raise $3,241,409 by the end of their campaign period, which ran from July 2017 to April 2018. The group has gone beyond their cumulative goal and raised $3,458,674, approximately 106 percent of the original goal.

“I found it to be a very positive thing for the parish,” said Rev. Brian Slezak, pastor at Church of the Holy Trinity in Cohoes. “It helped us to refocus on evangelization and think more about our future.”

Holy Trinity was one of the nine parishes to complete the campaign. The other eight pilot parishes include: Corpus Christi in Round Lake; Church of the Holy Spirit in Gloversville; Holy Trinity in Johnstown; Our Lady of Hope in Whitehall; Our Lady of Victory in Troy; Our Lady Queen of Peace/St. Margaret of Cortona Mission in Schenectady; St. Ann’s in Fort Ann, and St. John’s and St. Joseph in Rensselaer.

Mission and Hope

According to the campaign’s website, “the mission of the Re-Igniting Our Faith campaign is to strengthen our parishes as communities of faith, both spiritually and economically.” As part of the campaign, the Diocese hopes to raise $45 million by early 2019. 

Of the raised funds, 70 percent will go back to the parishes to utilize for their own needs, and 30 percent will go to the Diocese for assisting needs that serve parishes, such as helping retired priests, Catholic schooling and support for growing vocations initiatives in the Diocese.

Re-Igniting Our Faith is about more than just fundraising, campaign officials say. Parishes are aiming to increase evangelization and strengthen faith within their own communities, while also looking ahead and planning for the future of their communities. 

All parish campaigns are staggered across a two-year period – to ensure each parish gets the attention it needs — and lasts six to eight months in length. Campaign officials are anticipating that all remaining parishes will complete their campaigns by 2019. 

At the start of the campaign, each of the pilot parishes wrote out a campaign case, summarizing the parish’s individual goals and needs that Re-Igniting Our Faith could help fund. Re-Igniting Our Faith asked each parish to set the same goal of raising 125 percent of its average regular income that came in between 2014-16. 

Corpus Christi parish in Round Lake surpassed their campaign goal, topping 135 percent of the $737,493 they hoped to raise. The parish is looking into establishing a parish nursing program and increasing participation on social justice issues. 

“Everything was just positive overall,” said John Forte, head of the campaigns leadership committee for Corpus Christi.

Campaigning

Last summer, each of the nine pilot parishes established a Re-Igniting Our Faith committee and created a plan to address each parish’s own economic and spiritual needs. Each team was designated a campaign director from Re-Igniting Our Faith to help with implementing the campaign plan.

Each parish’s campaign spanned nine months. Beginning months were spent outlining the campaign plan. For a majority of the campaign, volunteers conducted solicitations and receptions at parishioners home to discuss the campaign and its goals. 

Debbie Czmyr, volunteer with Holy Trinity parish in Cohoes, met individually with parishioners at their homes to talk about what the campaign was and if they would consider donating. 

“We had a very good response for a parish of our size,” she told The Evangelist. Mrs. Czmyr didn’t want to pressure any families into donating, rather she told parishioners to think and pray about contributing to the campaign. In the end, “most [families] ended up pledging,” she said. 

Mrs. Czmyr also helped organize receptions for parishioners, where volunteers made slide¬≠shows to show what projects Re-Igniting Our Faith could support. 

Mr. Forte said the campaign helped bring the parish together as a community. Even after being in the parish for numerous years, Mr. Forte said he was able to meet new parishioners through working with the campaign.

“This was definitely a success,” he said. “As a parish, we’re one big family.”

Funds and Future

Campaign funds are to begin disbursement six months after the completion of the parish campaign, according to campaign officials. A second distribution will occur again six months later, and every six months until funds are disbursed in full.

Father Slezak has already begun utilizing Holy Trinity’s campaign funds on some of the parish’s initiatives, such as installing a projector in the school gym and replacing the flooring in the parish vestibule. All of the changes have been “well received” by the parish, he said.

Our Lady Queen of Peace/St. Margaret of Cortona Mission in Schenectady, set a goal of $492,441. With parish funds, the churches plan to invest in faith formation and evangelization, focusing on how to increase Mass attendance, expand community and parish events and engage the next generation of parishioners.

“Now more than ever, we need to invest in programs that bring our non-practicing members back to Our Lady Queen of Peace,” the parish outlined in its Re-Igniting Our Faith case. 

The parish of St. John’s and St. Joseph hopes to make renovations to the parish chapel, and the Church of the Holy Spirit is also hoping to make parish repairs, and to expand their faith formation programs to serve adults and parents, and bring in national speakers.

“Some of these things are what’s on the mind of a pastor each day,” said Father Slezak. “It’s exciting to have the support of people, and to have the money to fund these projects.”