The term “stewardship” can mean a lot of things to a lot of people.
To some, it means money. But when Cindy Lukowitz uses the word, she isn’t referring to financial support. She’s talking about love — specifically, the love God imparts to his people, and the ways they impart that same love to each other.
“We all know that God loves us. But gosh, I feel like we’ve forgotten it,” said Lukowitz, who could be called something of an expert — she is, after all, the director of stewardship for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
It is this understanding of stewardship that animates the archdiocesan-wide Love One Another capital campaign, now entering its third year of raising funds toward a $150 million goal.
But “there is so much more to it than money,” said Lukowitz.
“The world needs Catholics, more so than ever,” she said. “As Archbishop (Jerome E.) Listecki says, ‘We ride on the shoulders of those who went before us.’ Now it’s our turn to lay a strong foundation so our children and those who come after us have strong Catholic parishes that preach the faith.”
The campaign is taking place through staggered “waves” of parish-based appeals, beginning in late 2021 with 10 initial parishes in the Pilot Wave, followed by 36 parishes who made up Wave One earlier this year. This fall, 59 parishes will be engaged in their campaigns in Wave Two.
In total, $47 million has been pledged to date.
On an archdiocesan-wide level, 40 percent of the money raised throughout the Love One Another campaign will be used to grow the Church’s charitable outreach, fund grants to Catholic schools, support priests, deacons, seminarians and lay ministers, and provide for the needs of regional centers of prayer and ministry, like the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and the Mary Mother of the Church Pastoral Center.
But 60 percent of the funds raised will return to the originating parish to benefit its own self-identified needs.
For St. Anne Parish in Pleasant Prairie, which was part of Wave One of the campaign, those needs were designated through post-Mass “town hall” meetings held by the parish and included the construction of a new parish center, improvements to an existing sprinkler system and the completion of work on the sanctuary.
Ultimately, St. Anne raised more than $1.3 million in pledges, a solid 14 percent above the original goal.
“With a Eucharistic focus in finishing the worship space, our parishioners have bought into the fact that this takes highest priority for our church,” said St. Anne pastor Fr. Bob Weighner. “A parish center is believed to foster growth. We are in a prime location in southeastern Wisconsin, which points to a need to continually foster a sacred and dynamic parish community. Additionally, parishioners voiced support for the archdiocesan case, most especially for the work being done at the seminary.”
Margie Mandli, co-chair for the St. Anne Love One Another campaign committee, said one-on-one meetings with parish families were an effective means for explaining “what we are trying to accomplish and why.”
“We’ve also had well over 80 new families join our parish in just the last year. We are finding that these parishioners support the mission of our parish, which translates to a profound generosity,” she said.
Taking ownership of the parish mission is crucial to the success of a campaign, and it begins with a prayerful examination of each person’s own faith, said Lukowitz.
“This really is a campaign where the parish can sit back and look at how they can be beacons of hope and Christ to others in our world, and what capital expenses they have to make that happen,” said Lukowitz.
Lay witness talks have proven to be a critical tool for parishes to communicate their message at the outset of their campaign. Lukowitz and her boss, Director of Development Andy Gaertner, provide training for lay witnesses who speak on the topics of prayer, time, talent and treasure over a period of four weeks at the beginning of each parish campaign.
“We try to have them talk about their faith, not in relation to money but in terms of how they practice it,” said Gaertner. “When I talk about my own faith, I talk about how everything that I have comes from God — how my wife, my son, my parents, everything that I have is a gift from God, and I’m called to cherish and use those gifts properly and learn to share those things with others.”
The talks are short, not more than three minutes, and “get people thinking in a positive way about what they can do and how they’re practicing their faith,” said Gaertner.
The lay witness speakers “may not always be the extroverts” at the parish, said Lukowitz. “It may be the quiet person whose faith is just part of the fabric of who they are.”
The idea is to convey the message that “God loves you no matter what, and it’s through prayer that we love God in return,” she said. “And that’s where we as the faithful find that peace and that comfort and guidance, and all of the things that help quell our fears and give us the confidence to continue to go out and live our Catholic faith.”
For more information about the Love One Another campaign, visit loveoneanothermke.org.