May 5, 2006

A master plan: Legacy for Our Mission campaign helps parishes plan for the future

By Sean Gallagher

An essential part of a parish’s mission is careful planning for the future.

Examining current trends help parishioners discern with its leaders the nature of the parish’s ministries in the years to come. This might mean small adjustments to fit subtle changes. It might also mean preparing for entirely new ministerial thrusts, such as outreach to a growing Hispanic population.

The Legacy for Our Mission: For Our Children and the Future campaign is helping archdiocesan parishes train their eyes on the future.

For the three parishes that make up the Richmond Catholic Community, the future is now.

At 10 a.m. on June 3, the first-ever graduating class of the community’s Seton Catholic High School will walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.

Only that stage will be at nearby Earlham College in Richmond. None of the three parishes in Richmond—Holy Family, St. Andrew and St. Mary—have a facility large enough to hold a commencement ceremony.

And so the construction of a gymnasium became a natural choice for the members of the Richmond Catholic Community as they developed their case for the Legacy for Our Mission campaign.

Father Todd Riebe, the pastor of Richmond’s three parishes, said that the facility will also foster greater unity among the Catholics he leads.

“No one parish can hold us all when we come together for joint activities,” he said. “And so the gym will become that place where we can all gather together for things. Now we’ll have our own place to come together as a Catholic community in full force.”

The future is also now for the Richmond Catholic Community in its support of the formation of the archdiocese’s future priests, a major goal of the Legacy for Our Mission campaign.

Third-year seminarian Tom Kovatch is a member of Holy Family Parish in Richmond, while seminarian Aaron Thomas is a sophomore at Marian College in Indianapolis and a resident of the Bishop Bruté House of Formation.

“When I look back over these last four years, everything that I’ve been involved with has been helping me to become that spiritual leader for people, to lead them toward God,” Kovatch said. “And I’ve been able to do that without having to worry about a job, without having to worry about how I’m going to pay for my housing, how I’m going to have to pay for my food.

“It really puts you into a position where you don’t have to worry about anything. You can put all of your effort into learning how to be the best prepared person you can be for the priesthood.”

For other parishes in the archdiocese, the future is less clear.

After celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding last year, St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis is now pondering a future that may bode many changes from its first half century.

According to its current pastor, Father Gerald Kirkhoff, St. Pius X was the archdiocese’s largest parish approximately a decade ago.

Since then, the neighborhood around the parish has changed. Many moved north to Hamilton County. Others who remained are now senior citizens.

As a result, St. Pius X, while still a large faith community, is now approximately the 10th- or 11th-largest parish in the archdiocese.

Father Kirkhoff said that his parish’s current participation in the Legacy for Our Mission campaign is an opportunity for self-examination and future planning.

“I think it forces us to look at ourselves honestly,” he said. “But it also gives us a certain amount of hope that the past has been blessed and we can continue on because we have a firm foundation [of] … 50 years of faith.”

Sharon Wagner, 48, the parish’s business manager, is in a unique position to value the past and prepare for the future.

A lifelong member of the parish, she and the faith community grew up together.

“I think an awful lot of St. Pius, and I think a lot of other people do also,” Wagner said. “And they want their children to have that same experience. So I hope that they come behind this campaign to help that happen for those in the future.”

A primary way that the parish’s participation in the campaign will secure its future is through building up its endowment.

After several meetings of various parish groups and a December meeting open to all members that was attended by approximately 200 parishioners, a consensus emerged that a full 25 percent of the contributions to the campaign that remain in the parish would be set aside for its endowment.

The interest that this endowment will earn for years to come will help the parish adjust its ministries to the changing reality of its neighborhood.

The campaign has also motivated the parish to be proactive in its future planning. It has hired an architectural consultant to help create a master plan for the life of the parish that would reach into the next five to 10 years.

According to George Kempf, the chairman of St. Pius X’s Legacy for Our Mission campaign, this focus on the future will be attractive to the new people who move into the surrounding neighborhood in the coming years.

“If we do it right, we ought to be able to, for lack of a better term, advertise that we’re in a position to plan for the future rather than we want to fit everybody new into the way things used to be,” he said. “It’s a much different dynamic, and I think would be much more attractive to people looking to come to our parish … or the school, to see leaders that are truly looking down the road.” †


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