The parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul Parish are open, cordial and friendly. They feel very much at home and shared their love for their parish and one another with openness and honesty. They expressed great pride in the accomplishments of being a parish focused on social justice issues, with ministries and non-profits created which address those issues, and which serve the people of the parish, the larger Germantown neighborhood and El Salvador. They were open and candid in their remarks.
Of those we interviewed, the average number of years spent at St. Vincent de Paul was 19.5 years. And, when asked to rate from one to three how at home they felt at St. Vincent’s, 45 (97.8%) of the 46 interviews said 3, they felt very much at home.
The top strengths noted:
- The People/Church Community (26 Mentions)
- Social Justice (22 Mentions)
- Diversity (19 Mentions)
The people who comprise St. Vincent de Paul Parish see themselves as the number one strength and when describing themselves they intertwine all the other strengths mentioned. They are proud of their hospitality and welcoming nature (to ALL) and believe it flows from their spirituality. They love that they are diverse and that all members and visitors are viewed equally regardless of age, race, gender, socio-economic status, faith or length of time in the parish. Interviewees noted numerous times that the reason people are willing to travel great distances to worship at St. Vincent’s is to be a part of a faith community entrenched in the “Social Justice orientation of the Gospel.”
The top areas for improvement noted:
- More Unity Needed/Combine Masses/Merge is a Work in Progress (23 mentions)
- Building Needs Improvements (19 mentions)
- Communications (7 mentions)
Interviewees, for the most part, expressed sadness that the merger has created division within the community. The charisms of hospitality and welcoming may be present but there is a perceived lack of unity. Parishioners long for more interaction, more dialogue and more acceptance among the current members.
The second most mentioned area for improvement was repair of the buildings. Since this Study is testing the level of support people will give toward the projects listed, it actually makes this a strength that people see a great value and need to repair the buildings.
Communications was mentioned both specifically and indirectly throughout the interviews as an area to improve. Internal communications reflected overlap of events and meetings because there is no master calendar. Inconsistency of announcements at different Masses was also noted. However, communications was also bundled as marketing and public relations meaning people feel there should be a plan for external communications to invite others to come and experience St. Vincent’s.
When asked “Do you agree with the plans proposed?” – 37 (80%) agree; 9 (20%) agree with reservations and no one disagreed. Those who agree with reservations to the plan have concerns about the cost, whether enough due diligence has gone into choosing contractors and the financial capability of the parishioners. There are also as many people who want air conditioning as there are those who definitely do not want it.
Interviewers discussed the historical reality of the importance of major level gifts to a campaign and reviewed with each participant a range of gifts needed to reach the goal of $1 million. In the Major level there were only two pledges. In the Leadership level there were 13 pledges. Combined, 15 (33%) of the 46 interviews noted Major/Leadership level gifts. We look for 50% to 60%, making this response very low.
LCDC consultants suggest that there is a tentative potential for St. Vincent de Paul Parish to raise $400,000. It is tentative because some responses were made with conditions; specifically, a few interviewees want the rest of the work of the roof to go out to bid to at least two other companies, assuring that there has been ‘due diligence’ and all options have been considered for the appropriate cost of the roof.
Regardless of what money is needed to complete the project, the Capital Campaign goal must be achievable. If that goal reached will still not cover the costs, people need to know if the parish will borrow money and how they will carry the debt service. If there are other philanthropic sources, it would be best to secure them before announcing the targeted goal.
A Capital Campaign could be an energizing force to hurdle obstacles expressed in this Study. Working together towards a common cause could be a spiritual and unifying experience – and also raise money. There are many circumstances at St. Vincent’s that would not make the traditional Capital Campaign strategy viable. The distance people must travel to get to the church and the age of many of the current leaders would suggest a non-traditional Campaign strategy may be more appropriate for St. Vincent de Paul Parish. A Capital Campaign is about building relationships, communicating and working together to accomplish a common goal. Done successfully, a Campaign can do far more than raise money. All efforts must be directed to accomplish all these goals.
Lynn Cummings Development Consultants recommends cautiously proceeding with a Capital Campaign and our recommendations for success are listed in Chapter 4 – Closing Remarks and Recommendations.