“We’ve been very blessed,” Bishop Malooly said last week. He was announcing the response to the ambitious Sustaining Hope for the Future capital campaign launched by the diocese in 2013.
The pledged total is now $31,074,000, more than $3 million over the campaign’s target, $28 million.
“This is a real tribute to the people and the pastors” of the diocese, Bishop Malooly said.
“I think the people clearly saw the campaign was to re-energize the Diocese of Wilmington, to take care of those doing the work — the priests and the laity who will get the pensions.”
Sustaining Hope for the Future, a three-year campaign, can now help reinforce the diocesan lay employees’ pension plan, secure priests’ retirement benefits, strengthen diocesan ministries and sustain current and future parish needs.
“I need to get the diocese back on an even keel,” the bishop said at the start of the campaign.
The fundraising followed the diocesan bankruptcy settlement in 2011 in which it paid $77.4 million to settle 150 claims of survivors of sexual abuse by priests, as well as honoring claims of pensioners and other creditors.
The process had depleted the assets of the diocese, as well as nearly all the holdings of the Catholic Foundation, in order to protect parishes, Bishop Malooly said at the time.
“Twenty-nine parishes, as well as the diocese, had been sued and I needed to fold them into the overall settlement,” he said.
None of the Sustaining Hope for the Future money “will be used to satisfy claims from the abuse settlements,” the bishop pledged.
“We can’t ignore the past and what we did wrong, what my predecessors did wrong, but, clearly, I think we’ve been very fair in trying to reach out to all the survivors,” said the bishop. “It’s never enough but you don’t make up for horrible crimes in an easy way.”
Bishop Malooly credited the success of the Sustaining Hope campaign to the leadership of pastors, priests, his group of lay advisers, the diocesan Development Office and a consulting firm, the Steier Group.
• Pastors’ leadership
“The pastors’ leadership was right from the start,” the bishop said. “It was their contributions, made known to their parishes. There were significant contributions from men who do not make top-dollar salaries.”
Not just pastors, most priests contributed.
“These men were making significant pledges,” Bishop Malooly said. “I was really impressed with that. Looking at the sacrificial pledges they were making, that said an awful lot to their parishioners.”
“Collectively, the priests gave over a half-million dollars” to the campaign, said Deborah Fols, the head of the diocesan Development Office that ran the campaign.
Fols noted that when she spoke about Sustaining Hope at parishes, she told parishioners the bishop wasn’t “asking you to do something he and his priests haven’t already done.”
Bishop Malooly “gave the first gift, $25,000,” she said. “Then the bishop met individually with over 30 people who had the potential to give substantial support to this campaign. His efforts realized more than $3 million.”
The bishop said he learned his person-to-person fundraising skills from Cardinal William Keeler in Baltimore.
“Cardinal Keeler taught me. He said you have an obligation [to ask]. He said, if people have gifts from God, the whole second great commandment [love your neighbor as you love yourself] is to share with others what you have. This is helping their spiritual lives.
“It was hard for pastors in Baltimore not to get invested [in fundraising] because Cardinal Keeler was right in the middle of the fray,” the bishop said.
“I figure, here, we’re a lot smaller, so all the more reason to get into the middle of it. I feel you can’t abdicate there. There’s a significant spiritual element to fundraising.”
• Priests’ support
Father David Kelley, who serves as both pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Middletown and as director of the Office of Priestly and Religious Vocations, was a member of the campaign’s priests committee.
“I had a sense the priests were behind the bishop on this,” Father Kelley said of the campaign. “They wanted him to know they support him. We know a lot of people are depending on this [campaign]. It shows our commitment to the long-term health of the Diocese of Wilmington and its people.”
Father Kelley added that he believes diocesan priests are “confident and happy” the bishop is doing what’s right for the lay employees’ pension fund.
“We wanted to back him up on that.”
Since the diocesan bankruptcy, diocesan lay employees — parish secretaries, teachers, maintenance workers, religious ed directors — contribute to a 403B plan for their retirement.
However, the bankruptcy settlement called for a diocesan contribution of $10 million by the end of 2017 to a previously established pension plan. The Sustaining Hope campaign will enable the diocese to meet that deadline.
“Our employees deserved what they were promised,” the bishop said. Sustaining Hope “gives us the chance to now do what we promised we would do.”
• Contributions from laity
Bishop Malooly also credited the lay people who served as his co-chairs for the campaigns success.
“They were very helpful throughout because they were personally offering me encouragement as we were moving along. Many were good friends and that’s why I asked them to serve in the effort. They’ve been very supportive not only through their own generosity but through their personal support.”
• ‘Herculean job’
John Cochran, a member of St. Joseph on the Brandywine Parish in Greenville, served as a co-chair of the campaign and with his wife, Patricia, was a major donor.
He said he thinks Sustaining Hope was successful “first and foremost because of Bishop Fran Malooly’s leadership. He expressed a very sincere message of need to the parishioners of each parish that these were necessary funds to help solve major issues facing the diocese.
“I feel that our Catholic laity believed in the bishop’s message. Bishop Malooly did a Herculean job in leading the diocese through these difficult and dark days of the priest sexual abuse scandals. The bishop was open and operated in a very transparent manner with the accused, as well as the laity. … I believe the people of the diocese heard and had faith in the bishop’s message and could relate to the financial needs of the campaign.”
As a result of Bishop Malooly’s work, Cochran added, “we are able to turn the page, regroup and go forward in supporting the diocese and our parishes.”
Margaret Riehl, a Sustaining Hope co-chair with her husband, John, also said that trust in Bishop Malooly was a key to the campaign’s success.
“The campaign was very important to place the diocese on sound footing financially,” said Riehl, a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Easton, Md. “The bishop had a tough several years and I think the laity appreciated his handling of the crisis.”
• ‘Unique’ campaign
Bishop Malooly also said that Fols’ experience of 35 years in church development work in the diocese and around the country provided another boost for the campaign.
“She knew what she was doing and Steier sent us good, solid leaders,” the bishop said.
“This campaign was a tough campaign,” Fols said. “It was unique. The diocese had just emerged from bankruptcy. The trust of the faithful had been compromised. Some people saw the campaign as a Band-Aid to mismanagement of monies. That’s not what the campaign was all about. We really had to take a lot of time, and rightfully so, to provide the correct information to the faithful so they could make a good-conscience decision with respect to their support for this campaign.
“I think the results speak to the fact we were able to deliver the correct information,” Fols added. “Once the faithful were able to embrace the purpose of the campaign, they graciously and generously responded.”
The correct information on the campaign was continuously made available to parishioners on a Sustaining Hope for the Future website, the diocesan website, in The Dialog, and at parish and regional meetings across the diocese during the campaign’s two phases — wave I and wave II.
“People are generous, but regardless of how generous they are … they still have to know what their money will be used for,” Fols said. “It has to be justified. We had to take time to ensure our constituency could fully understand the purpose and to be able to make a conscious decision as to whether or not they would support the matter.”
• $40 million in two years
The generosity of the faithful of the diocese is underlined by the fact that with the $31 million pledged to Sustaining Hope for the Future, and the totals received from the 2013 and 2014 Annual Catholic Appeal drives, parishioners have given nearly $40 million to the diocese in two years’ time.
“Both those trains (the Appeal and Sustaining Hope) were running at the same time,” Bishop Malooly said. “Of course, we were concerned. Most dioceses stop their annual appeal if they’re doing a major campaign.
“I have to tell you, the generosity of many for the Appeal carried over to their generosity for the campaign. This was people stepping up who were already very much invested in supporting the parishes and the charitable efforts of the church.”
Fols said there will continue to be updates on the Sustaining Hope campaign’s progress, such as the completion of some parish projects that will be funded with the parishes’ portion [40 percent] of their achieved donation goal.
Given the three-year pledge time, Fols said the majority of the money pledged will be in by 2017.
That $31 million in donations is evidence of a heritage of faith and generosity in the diocese.
“This is a strong testimony to the strong faith and commitment that our people truly have,” said Fols. “Our people didn’t lose faith. They understand the church is very important to them and to others.”