Special to The Dialog
Parishioners at St. Joseph Church on French Street in Wilmington have reason to celebrate this Thanksgiving weekend: The historic church has exceeded its $181,000 goal for the Sustaining Hope for the Future campaign. But leaders at St. Joseph added $90,000 to that goal in order for the parish to have sufficient funds to renovate kitchen and restroom facilities in the church hall. While they rejoice at meeting the first goal, they realize more work remains to be done to meet their hopes. As of last week, St. Joseph’s had raised more than $222,000 in gifts and pledges. “That was a stretch goal to do everything we wanted to do,” Earl MacFarlane, who with his wife Damita chaired the St. Joseph campaign, said of St. Joseph’s total $271,080 goal. “We increased it because we wanted to help the diocese meet its needs [as well as] the goals we wanted to achieve. We saw Sustaining Hope for the Future as an opportunity.”
St. Joseph is one of 33 parishes participating in Wave II of Sustaining Hope for the Future, a combined diocese-parish campaign with a target of $28 million. Of that, $10 million will strengthen the pension plan for past and many current lay employees; $3 million will go to the Trust for the Welfare and Retirement of Priests; $2 million to diocesan ministries, and $11.2 million to parish projects.
Wave II parishes have raised more than $11.5 million of their combined $16,435,000 goal, or more than 70 percent, in pledges or gifts thus far, said Deborah Fols, director of development for the Diocese of Wilmington. Besides St. Joseph’s, four other Wave II parishes have already reached their goal: Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington; St. Mary of the Assumption in Hockessin, Good Shepherd in Perryville, Md., and St. John the Apostle in Milford and its sister church, St. Bernadette in Harrington. Twenty-one parishes participating in Wave I pledged nearly $7.25 million, or just under 80 percent of their combined goals earlier this year. Three additional parishes that conducted their own capital campaigns raised $5,300,000, which included almost $1.5 million for the diocese through Sustaining Hope for the Future. Bishop Malooly himself raised more than $3 million before the parish campaign began. Overall, $27,250,000 has been raised, said Fols. She is confident the overall goal will be achieved. “I am once again humbled by the willingness of our people to help the diocese in its ministries and obligations, and to help their own parishes,” Fols said. “While we have not yet met our goal, I trust that our people will continue to share from their bounty to continue God’s work in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.” Ray Manza, who serves on the Bishop’s Lay Executive Committee and is on the campaign leadership team at St. Mary of the Assumption in Hockessin, agrees. “The response from the people in the diocese, and in our parish, has been absolutely marvelous,” Manza said. “We’ve still got a ways to go but I think we will get there.” Like St. Joseph’s, St. Mary of the Assumption decided its base goal of $1,018,500, set in conjunction with the diocese, was insufficient to accomplish what parish leaders determined as the campaign goal: to have nine stained glass windows built and installed, completing a parish dream from when the church was built half a century ago. Father Charles Dillingham, pastor, said the windows needed to be replaced since they were not longer energy efficient. David Burton, one of Bishop Malooly’s campaign chairs and a chair the campaign for St. John the Apostle-St. Bernadette, attributed his parish’s success to two major reasons: Key projects with which parishioners of both communities could identify, and a desire to help the diocese recover and move forward from the clergy sexual abuse and resulting bankruptcy agreement of 2011. “Our people did beautifully,” Burton said. “The local part is important, but I think a lot of people in our parish believe the diocese really needs to get our house in order and move on.” He viewed his parish’s success as an endorsement of Bishop Malooly’s efforts as he leads the diocese into the future. Local projects include repair of the steeple and replacing the roof at St. John’s; air condition the church hall at St. Bernadette, and begin work toward a new rectory. Father Michael Darcy, pastor of St. John-St. Bernadette, said parish leaders “worked very hard not only on choosing the projects but getting the people involved.” Many parishioners already were aware of the needs, Father Darcy said, and “those who were not aware of them became aware of them.” Now the parish is working to complete those projects. Father Darcy said bids for the work on St. John’s roof and steeple are being reviewed, in conjunction with the diocesan building committee. “We want to make sure we do the roof right,” he said, and the building committee can provide expertise. Parish leaders are also moving forward with the air-conditioning at St. Bernadette’s hall. “Right now we’re in the nuts and bolts stage,” Father Darcy said. “How much air conditioning (capacity) is needed, should we lower the ceiling, things like that.” St. Joseph’s on French Street hopes to be able to soon join St. John-St. Bernadette in bringing its vision for Sustaining Hope for the Future a reality. The kitchen and restroom improvements underscore a significant part of St. Joseph’s, which bills itself as “a welcoming, spirit-filled and diverse faith community.” The kitchen is often used after special services in the church, or for various groups that meet in the hall. The hall also hosts an after-school program for children in downtown Wilmington. The expanded parish goal will be combined with funds that had already been raised, including $30,000 targeted in the parish’s 125th anniversary celebration this year, to make those improvements. Given the goal and the fact that St. Joseph’s is a smaller parish, “we thought about this as a broad-based campaign from the start,” MacFarlane said. The success shows “how even a small church can achieve a big goal.”