“This is a different kind of campaign,” remarked Rev. Donald Czelusniak.

Father Czelusniak, pastor of Holy Spirit parish in Glovers­ville and Holy Trinity in Johns­town, was referring to the Albany Diocese’s “Re-Igniting Our Faith” campaign that’s now underway in a sampling of parishes.

With the goal of raising $45 million by 2019, the campaign splits the money pledged by Catholics all over the Diocese 70/30, with 70 percent of the funds remaining at the parish level. The rest will support diocesan needs related to Catholic schools, faith formation, evangelization, vocations and retired priests.

Re-Igniting Our Faith is also a campaign focused on evangelization. Each parish creates a “case” that lists its needs and concerns, from maintenance of buildings to community outreach, and asks parishioners to look at what they can do to help ensure the future of the parish and the larger Church.

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger has spoken of a “larger vision of growing and enhancing our Catholic community of faith for current and future generations.”

HOLY SPIRIT, GLOVERSVILLE

Already, several parishes participating in the pilot phase of the campaign have surpassed their fundraising goals. One is Holy Spirit in Gloversville, which, having raised about $355,000, has topped its goal by 14 percent.

Father Czelusniak isn’t surprised.

It’s part of the “normal rhythm” of a parish, he said, to do some kind of campaign every few years. Moreover, every parish has “real needs [that] people can see for themselves. They’re invested in their parish. Every time I’ve had a capital campaign for parish needs, they have always come through.”

Holy Spirit parish has a fair number of physical needs: several necessary roof repairs, masonry work, painting and establishing a wireless internet connection. Beyond that, the faith formation program needs to be expanded.

The pastor said it makes sense to parishioners to give what they can. Although the level of poverty in Gloversville is reflected in the parish community, he said, higher-income parishioners who made significant donations to Re-Igniting Our Faith were an encouragement to others to contribute.

The 30 percent of donations that go to the Diocese is also important to Father Czelusniak’s parishioners — especially the amount that will support future and retired priests. Father Czelusniak is about to retire, and he talked about trying to figure out whether he could live on his small pension.

The Diocese has an increasing number of seminarians studying for the priesthood, but the number of active priests are still outnumbered by the retired clergy who need financial support.

“It’s a fixed income, and it depends on the priest’s health condition, too,” Father Czelusniak said. “I’m diabetic. I see all sorts of specialists. Some priests don’t have those expenses; I do.”

Most retired priests also continue to serve in parishes and other ministries, as will Father Czelusniak. He got an apartment in Gloversville and will move in this month, serving as “pastor emeritus” until a replacement is named for Holy Spirit.

“You can retire as a pastor, but you don’t retire from the priesthood,” he said. “Even if a priest is flat on his back, he’s still a priest, uniting himself with the cross of Christ.”

OUR LADY OF HOPE, WHITEHALL

Jared Mowatt of Our Lady of Hope parish in Whitehall says that, when he heard about the Re-Igniting Our Faith campaign, “I was probably the biggest pessimist in the room.”

His parish, like all those in the Diocese, was asked to raise 125 percent of its average of regular ordinary income over a three-year period. “Not in a community as small as we [are],” Mr. Mowatt thought. “Not in a community that has so many people that have limited incomes.”

Speaking to parishioners at weekend Masses recently, he admitted, “I was really wrong. We’re not ‘going to’ do this; we are currently doing this.”
OLH has shot past its campaign goal by almost 13 percent, raising more than $195,000 already.

Mr. Mowatt is married with three young children. He and his wife, a stay-at-home mom, pledged $10,000 to Re-Igniting Our Faith.

Part of what changed his mind about the campaign is that Our Lady of Hope parish has practical needs. On the list are a Catholic after-school program that Rev. Rendell Torres, pastor of OLH and of St. Ann’s in Fort Ann, described as “crucial” to evangelization.

The after-school program would give children a safe place to have a snack, play, do homework and learn about the faith. In line with that is another goal for OLH: funding faith formation materials for children and adults, including a subscription to the “FORMED” online resource.

Father Torres told The Evangelist that the parish also wants to repair its stained-glass windows and church steeple, but those come second to evangelization.

Mr. Mowatt said he divided his family’s potential contribution over the course of the campaign and realized it would only work out to $155 per month.

“My cable bill, my power bill, my cell phone bill — all of those bills that I’m so willing to pay are more than that $155 a month,” he told his fellow parishioners.

Father Torres says a successful campaign will take the devotion of his congregation, whom he described as “prayerful people [and] also reasonable people,” and the influence of the Holy Spirit.

For Mr. Mowatt, it’s even simpler. He says the campaign is important because it’s about “re-igniting our own faith, bringing people back into the Church who maybe have wandered away. I happen to be one of those people.

“We’re raising money for our own people: to develop youth programs, to develop after-school programs, to fix our stained-glass windows and the steeple,” he added. “We are here to take care of each other, and this is for us.”

(Learn more at https://re-ignitingourfaith.org or call 518-453-6680.)