Archbishop calls donors with a personal ‘thank you’
By Julie Filby
The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado tried something new last week. To express their gratitude to donors with a personal touch, they organized a live conference call with Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila—giving the prelate a chance to say “thank you” firsthand.
Approximately 17,000 donors of the ongoing New Harvest Campaign, a $35 million fundraising effort for Denver’s two seminaries, were invited to participate in the call that was held at 7 p.m. Jan. 22. About 5,500 people accepted the invitation.
Using TeleForum technology, the archbishop—along with Msgr. Michael Glenn, rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary—thanked donors for their support, provided an update on seminarians, and left the bulk of the 30-minute call open for questions.
“It is wonderful to be able to be with you,” Archbishop Aquila began, speaking from his office on the campus of the John Paul II Center. “And to, first of all, extend my deep gratitude to each and every one of you for your generosity to the New Harvest campaign.”
Following comments from the archbishop and Msgr. Glenn, time allowed for six participants to ask questions, and the call ended with a blessing by the archbishop. Callers were also able to leave questions and feedback on voicemail: a total of 76 follow-up questions and comments were received (see sidebar for a sampling).
“We believe the TeleForum went really well,” said Deacon Steve Stemper, president and CEO of the foundation, who moderated the call. “Feedback indicated 93 percent of participants appreciated the foundation ‘reaching out’ to them in that way.”
Broadnet, the company that developed TeleForum, considers it to be the most powerful and popular telephone town hall product in the world. For this event, the technology was donated by company CEO, Steve Patterson, who is Catholic.
“We’re glad we did it,” Deacon Stemper said. “A 90-plus percent approval rating indicates it went well.”
Though he realizes this type of technology isn’t for everyone.
“We recognize that not everyone would want to get a call from the archbishop,” he said, “we ask for their understanding as we tried this new option of leveraging the archbishop’s time to communicate with thousands at once.
“Some people may have been leery of taking a call, because unsolicited calls usually involve a solicitation,” he added. “But this call was simply to allow the archbishop and Msgr. Glenn to thank A New Harvest donors and answer their questions. We hope that if we try this again, even more people will participate.”
Campaign donors were invited to the TeleForum through an audio message, recorded by Deacon Stemper, delivered to their phones the night before the TeleForum.
Jim Broski, a longtime Serran and parishioner at St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial, participated in the call.
“I appreciated the call very much,” he told the Denver Catholic Register. “It’s one thing to read the words of the archbishop or Msgr. Glenn, but it’s another to hear them or be with them live … the call was productive and almost as personal as being in-person.”
He also appreciated the content.
“Money, fundraising push or goals were not talked about,” he added. “What came across was the Church was thanking the faithful in a genuine way. That was clear from the ‘get-go’ and I thought that was very nice.”
The team will assess feedback to determine if future TeleForum calls will be conducted.
To listen to a 30-minute rebroadcast of the Jan. 22 TeleForum, visit www.thecatholicfoundation.com.
4 Top Questions
Seventy-six of the 5,517 callers stayed on line after the end of the TeleForum to ask questions. The following are responses to the four most common themes from the questions received:
Q: What is the status of A New Harvest campaign?
A: The campaign is nearing the end, with efforts for the final nine parishes expected to be completed in April. The seminaries and The Catholic Foundation are confident that the campaign is on track to achieve its $35 million goal, with a final accounting anticipated thereafter.
Q: What is the renovations schedule at the seminaries?
A: The design phase begins in February. Renovations will occur in two phases: first, the chapel and main building, starting in September this year; second, the library and refectory, starting in May 2014. Both phases will be completed in August 2014—before the new 2014-2015 academic year.
Q: How do other dioceses support our seminaries?
A: A number of dioceses do not have seminaries and enroll their students in other diocesan seminaries (like ours). They pay us tuition for their students. This provides our seminaries with an excellent source of revenue, amounting to $2.3 million in the current year.
Q: What is the course of study for seminarians and how is it affected by today’s societal issues?
A: The typical seminarian is in the program seven years. The focus changes as seminarians move through the program: the focus in the first year is on discernment; in the second and third years on philosophy, leading to a bachelor’s degree; and in the last four years on theology, leading to a master’s degree. Seminarians have an ongoing process of formation throughout the program in psychological/sexual issues, family counseling needs and language preparation, amongst others.