St. Thomas More teams with development office to implement toolkit

| October 11, 2011 | 0 Comments

At St. Thomas More’s parish center, the windows of a comfortably furnished, living room-like meeting room look out onto St. Paul’s leafy Summit Avenue.

At a middle-of-the-day meeting, the handful of parishioners gathered there never look out the windows.

Members of St. Thomas More’s stewardship committee get right to business.

They pray for guidance first, then wordsmith mailings for this fall’s drive, check the steps they’re taking against their timeline, and talk through each piece of the campaign to make sure they are sending the right messages to their church community.

They discuss alternative ways to do just about everything.

At one point, committee member Joan Williams pulls out a copy of the new archdiocesan Parish Stewardship Toolkit. She wants to see if a letter drafted by committee chairman Mike Sarafolean follows suggested language.

“The last couple of years we’ve been looking for best practices in the stewardship area,” Sarafolean explained. “When (the Stewardship Toolkit) was presented last spring, we found that it was well-written and the process well-organized and straightforward.

“Plus we’ve got the advantage of support right down the street.”

Teammates approach

Right down the street is the office of Mike Halloran, archdiocesan director of development and stewardship, about two miles away in the archdiocese’s Hayden Center at 328 Kellogg Blvd.

Halloran is the one who crafted the toolkit with input from the archdiocesan Stewardship Committee, among others, to do one thing: advance the mission of the church. That’s the goal of the archdiocesan Office of Development and Stewardship.

“We want to be seen as teammates with our parishes and donors in advancing the mission,” Halloran said, “and we’re trying to do that by providing valuable resources and services. I’ve spent much of my 11 months on the job listening to our key stakeholders — parish leaders (pastoral and lay) and donors — to identify their greatest needs and interests.”

That feedback resulted in the development of the toolkit, a resource Halloran sees as akin to a playbook for a sports team.

It includes elements designed to inform, involve, inspire and invite Catholics to a deeper understanding of and participation in stewardship as a way of life.

Full of the nuts and bolts that have made stewardship efforts successful, it has pieces that explain the concept of stewardship, a timeline, planning and preparation recommendations, guidelines for pastor talks and lay witness testimonials, suggestions for intercessions and music in the liturgy, and much more.

The toolkit comes in a three-ring binder so it’s expandable, but there is also an online stewardship toolkit which can be updated and added to.

St. John the Baptist in Jordan and Nativity of Mary in Bloomington are two more parishes using it this fall.

No urgency, but a need

St. Thomas More, formed when Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Luke merged, didn’t feel a pressing need to jump at a new stewardship effort. “The community is generous,” Sarafolean said, “but like many parishes we’re experiencing changes and disruption.”

He was quick to point out that the parish geography includes much more than upper-income Summit Avenue.

“With the general state of the economy and the transition we’re in, we continue to need additional income. But Father Joe (pastor Jesuit Father Joseph Weiss) and others in our leadership are really interested in developing a greater sense of real Christian stewardship that goes beyond money.”

Arline Datu, a member of St. Thomas More’s stewardship committee and the parish council chair, said she liked the sample bulletin announcements and commitment cards in the toolkit that enable volunteering of time, talent and treasure.

“What I appreciated more, though,” Datu said, “was the delineating of stewardship and what is important. Our parish council has taken the position that stewardship is very important for the life of the community. We’re creating a community centered in Eucharist, and stewardship is gratitude for blessings God’s given and gratitude for a way of life.”

Stewardship logo a hit

Committee members stay pretty focused, challenging one another’s assumptions and ideas at times. More often than not Williams, Datu, Sarafolean, Kathleen Murray and Melissa Kestner affirm one another as agreement comes about as a result of the open, frank discussion.

The whole group speaks positively about the colorful logo provided in the stewardship toolkit. They’ll use it in their mailings for sure. The toolkit includes two reflection guides — pamphlets that explain stewardship briefly and simply — and one will go in the packet to St. Thomas More parishioners, too. “I like that it’s focusing on discipleship instead of finances,” Williams offers.

Sarafolean points to the timeline as perhaps the most helpful piece in the toolkit. He and Datu both mention that it has helped them see the importance of follow-up and accountability that make stewardship as a way of life an ongoing campaign, not just a fall effort, a “continuing presence in the parish,” as he put it.

Along with the Parish Stewardship Toolkit, Halloran’s office offers corresponding support services to help parish efforts.

At St. Thomas More, Sarafo­lean said he’s taken advantage of that support at least three times in recent months by calling Halloran for advice.

Building relationships and providing services is part of the game plan, Halloran said.

“The Office of Development and Stewardship is committed to be a much more externally focused teammate,” he said.

Datu sees use of the resources in the archdiocesan toolkit in a big-picture sense: “I feel part of a larger movement,” she said, “something we’re all doing together in the archdiocese.”

Tags: , ,

Category: Local News, Spotlight