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St. Stephen Parish in Winooski is a model of Bishop's Fund success

Edmundite Father Stephen Hornat is pastor of St. Stephen Parish in Winooski. (Photo courtesy St. Michael's College) Edmundite Father Stephen Hornat is pastor of St. Stephen Parish in Winooski.
Gone are the days when members of a parish committee went door-to-door to collect for the annual Bishop’s Fund appeal; there simply isn’t parish-level personnel support to do that. So the Diocese of Burlington depends on the parish leadership -- particularly the pastors -- to promote the appeal within the parish.
There are several phases to the appeal. The Leadership and Major Gift phase takes place during the final week in April; at the end of May the official kickoff coincides with the In-Pew phase. The largest mailing phase with more than 30,000 letters goes out in July and is then followed by two additional phases.
When looking at parish successes, Shannon Tran, assistant director of appeals and operations for the Diocese of Burlington, immediately thinks of St. Stephen Parish in Winooski.
With 162 registered families – 80 percent of which are considered active in their parish to some degree – the parish had a Bishop’s Fund participation rate of 66 percent, “much higher than the participation rate of the entire appeal diocesan-wide, which is only about 35 percent,” Tran pointed out. “By the second week in June, they’d exceeded their goal!”
St. Stephen’s was the first parish to do so.
“We all have [Edmundite] Father [Stephen] Hornat [the pastor] to praise for that,” said parishioner Jocelyn Barton. “He has a way when he explains things to bring them to your perspective…. He speaks from the heart.”
She said not only did he prepare parishioners ahead of time for the In-Pew phase of the collection, he inspires people by the way he acts and speaks.
Father Hornat served as pastor of Queen of Peace Parish in Selma, Ala., from 2011-2014, and there parishes had only one month to complete the annual Archdiocese of Mobile fundraising appeal. “I was used to making a big pitch and promotion for the In-Pew weekend,” he said. “I relied on my experience from the South.”
He told St. Stephen parishioners he thought the Bishop’s Fund could be wrapped up in a month, and they responded positively. “I thought if we could do it in Mobile, we could do it here,” he said. “That was my goal.”
For the most recent appeal, St. Stephen’s had an average pledge of $240, a 13 percent increase from 2014. That is a 23 percent increase in pledge total for the parish from 2014, part of what Tran called a “steady increase over a three-year period.”
More than 80 percent of pledges were made in May and June.
“Overall, they’ve increased in giving, yes, but in doing so they give themselves so much more opportunity for event planning and promotion of parish collections and national collections because they have fulfilled their annual appeal participation obligation,” Tran said.  “There is a cost for managing donor lists, address verification, printing and of course postage. The earlier we apply pledges to a parish’s goal, the less follow-up is required by the diocese and parishes.”
The diocese and parishes work together to ensure parishioner data is correct throughout the year.
Father Hornat said people were surprised the parish made its goal in about three weeks. “When I told the people, they applauded,” he said. “I said, ‘see what we can do when we put our minds to it.’”
To foster success with the appeal, pastors are given promotional materials directly, and parish administrators are given at least weekly communications with bulletin requests and pulpit announcements from the Diocesan Office of Development and Communications. This includes a manual for assistance in appeal promotion, a video with the bishop’s message, updated information about appeal outcomes from the prior year, a statement about fund designation and in-pew materials.
Last modified onThursday, 08 December 2016 11:21
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