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St. John Francis Regis

    Scaling the face of El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park was easier for Father Sean McCaffery than taking on a new parish after the departure of a well loved pastor, and a 30 percent decline in pledges. Before entering the priesthood, Father McCaffery had a fruitful career and many adventures, including mountain climbing, but they did not prepare him for the challenges he faced at St. John Francis Regis Parish in Kansas City, Missouri. Declining church revenue mirrored the sharp drop in local property values, and a parish school with a great reputation but falling attendance greeted him on his first day at the job.
       Undaunted, Father McCaffery started with a quick prayer, and marshaled all his resources and experiences to overcome the obstacle at hand. His first action was to form a Stewardship Committee and begin regular year-round meetings. Second, he took the materials and tailored the plan to fit the parish calendar. Following the trail set out by the Wichita, Kansas diocese, he deployed lay speakers at all masses to tell their inspiring stewardship stories.
       The parish staff created an annual report that clearly showed everyone where their donations had gone, and the compelling human impact of their generosity. Stewardship prayer was set as the centerpiece of the annual parish-wide campaign. This included a time of prayer and discernment in which all members were guided to reflect on God's blessings, and how each of them might respond. Finally, the annual campaign commitment Sunday was a celebration in gratitude of the many blessings within St. John Francis Regis parish, with an awareness of, but no pressure, to pledge.
       The results were immediate. The amount pledged that first commitment Sunday was an increase of 51 percent, and the number of people who did pledge jumped by 54 percent.
       It looked good to Father McCaffery, but he wasn't sure until he called Church Development to thank them for use of the materials and report the results. "Was it a good success?" he asked. "No, that isn't good,' Denis Greene said. "It's great. You didn't climb El Capitan, you summited Mount Everest."
       The material Father McCaffery used for the success, were based on research conducted by Villanova and presented in the book "Why Catholics Don't Give"; the Wichita, Kansas Diocese; corporate research in the book "Good to Great"; marketing research presented in "Made to Stick"; and from research on parish stewardship efforts by Church Stewardship System logoDevelopment. All of the materials are featured on our  Stewardship System website,
       What's next for Father McCaffery? He's using the momentum to implement a web based volunteer management system to organize every parishioner activity and, create "episodic volunteer opportunities" for parishioners who are marginally involved.

St. John Francis Regis Parish
Kansas City, Missouri
Fr. Sean McCaffery, Pastor

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