Parishioners from 39 churches in the Archdiocese of Denver took advantage of a financial opportunity over the past year by digging deeper into their wallets and now their parishes have more than $1 million to use for such needs as a church remodeling, an altar replacement and new widows for a parish school.
The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado agreed to match up to $10,000 if parishes raised money outside of the weekly offertory collections. Through June, the parishes raised $652,214 and the foundation added the $390,000 matching funds.
One parishioner at St. Michael the Archangel in Aurora personally met the match with a $10,000 donation after listening to Deacon Steve Stemper, CEO and president of the foundation, explain the program.
“I think that we probably would not have gotten that $10,000 donation if Deacon Steve had not spoken at the church about the matching funds,” said Pastor Father Terry Kissell.
Other parishioners also have made donations, Father Kissell said, and the money is being put into an endowment fund for future uses.
“The response has been fantastic,” Deacon Stemper told the Denver Catholic Register. “We’re offering parishioners an opportunity to help their parish and in the process double the money. The weekly offering helps the parishes keep the lights on and keep the programs in place running. This money allows them to go over and above those basic needs.”
The program will run at least through 2014 with a possible extension into 2015 and other parishes still can take advantage of the matching funds, Deacon Stemper said. The money comes from the foundation’s Bridge Fund, which benefits a variety of Catholic ministries through grants determined by the board of trustees.
Each parish determines how the matching money will be used. For St. Mark in Westminster the money allows the parish to begin a long-needed remodel project for the church and offices, said Father Ken Koehler.
“People here really have been generous,” Father Koehler said. “They listened to how the program would work and how we could get the remodel project.”
Father Koehler hopes the building improvements will help attract more young families to the parish, which has an older congregation.
St. Peter Parish in Greeley with the help of the local Knights of Columbus was able to raise the matching funds and replaced its aging tabernacle altar with a new tabernacle and a high altar from Spain. Additionally, the church plans to use part of the money to help an orphanage in Ghana, said Father Matt Hartley.
“When we told our parishioners about the matches they did the rest,” he said.
Other projects among parishes that met the matching funds, include: Sts. Peter and Paul in Wheat Ridge plans to use the money for new windows and air conditioning primarily at its parish school; St. Nicholas in Platteville plans an addition of classrooms for religious education; and St. John the Baptist in Johnstown wants to eventually build a new church.
The Catholic Foundation, a nonprofit agency founded in 1998, oversees the matching funds for the parishes. The foundation provides financial guidance for the parishes and legal protection so that the money is used solely for the parish.
In addition to the matching fund program, Deacon Stemper also has asked parishioners to consider remembering their churches in their wills. Unlike other nonprofits or universities, the Catholic Church has not historically asked for parishes to be beneficiaries, Deacon Stemper said. Any financial gift, including designating the Church as the beneficiary on 401-K or bank accounts, would benefit the designated parish, he said.
“The most significant gift can be made at the end of one’s life and the most worthy recipient is the Church,” Deacon Stemper said.