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Monday, May 14, 2018

CAPITAL CAMPAIGN CO-DIRECTOR WITNESS STATEMENT

Presentation made at Masses on May 12th and 13th by Campaign Co-director Kathy Donahue:

My husband, Alan, and I have been members of St. Francis Xavier parish for around 20 years. Our two children have received all of their sacraments from baptism to confirmation in this parish. This truly is our parish home, and the only parish home our children know. So, I was honored when Fr. Dale asked me to serve as one of the three Co-Directors of the capital campaign to Expand our Embrace. Let me be clear, when I said “yes”, I did not know I would be video-taped or asked to give a very personal statement in front of you during Mass. So please bear with me as I’ve stretched outside my comfort zone.

 As one of the Co-Directors, my husband and I had the “privilege” of receiving the first capital campaign packet. By now, you should all have received your packet. Fr. Dale came to our home to present the packet, discuss the campaign and ask for our financial support. Now, I’ve been involved with this project for quite a while so there wasn’t much need for explanation or “selling”. My husband and I had talked many times about the need for expansion and had already decided on the amount we would give. So, when Fr. Dale pulled out the page from the packet that contained the requested giving chart, well, let’s just say we were sticker shocked.

The number we had decided to give was no where close to the giving chart presented to us. We thought he was delusional. Trust me, we could easily justify the number we came up with – our son starts college next year and our daughter is only three years behind him, we’re saving for retirement, and so on and so on. You know the deal – we can all spout off a number of reasons why our money is otherwise “accounted for”. It is very easy to justify a surplus gift and why we can’t give more. But we realized that while we had talked about our giving, we had never taken it to prayer.

So, we did that. I spent time really reflecting on why this project meant so much to me. Enough to agree to serve in this role. I kept coming back to really one thing, and that’s the youth of this parish. We have over 180 kids in our RE program, but look around you, there aren’t the equivalent number of young adults in these pews. Why are we losing our youth between Confirmation and the 30’s? What can we do to bring them back? Then I realized…. that was me, that is my faith journey.

I’m a cradle catholic. I grew up in St. Denis parish and attended elementary school there. It’s the same school my mother and her brothers attended and we lived in the neighborhood behind the school down the street from my grandparents. My mother and grandmother were model examples of how to live a life of stewardship. My mom volunteered for numerous school and parish functions including the school cafeteria. My grandmother made, cleaned and pressed the Priest’s vestments and I would accompany her to hang them in the sacristy. Remember, this was before girls could be altar servers, so I thought I was special being able to go into the sacristy.

Every week, my mother dropped an envelope into the collection basket. Now, we didn’t have much. McDonald’s was a rare treat and my closet was filled with hand me down clothes, but that was no different than most of my friends. Years later my mom told me no matter what bill was at risk of not being paid, she always put money in that envelope weekly because that’s what the Bible taught us. She also recalls times that they weren’t sure how they were going to pay a bill, but she’d drop in that envelope and then my Dad would get a phone call to do a side job and they’d have enough to pay that bill. It’s safe to say my roots were pretty grounded.

I even attended a catholic college, Bellarmine. But when my late teens and 20’s hit, I was gone. I found what I thought were better ways to spend my time. And it lasted for over a decade. My husband and I moved to Mt Washington and decided we’d try to go to church again. We attended St. Francis Xavier and it felt like the right fit, so we joined the parish. After a while, I felt like something was still missing. We were attending Mass more than we ever had, but I felt a pull to do more. At the time, a parish pictorial directory was being put together. I believe it was the first one at this parish. I saw the call for volunteers in the bulletin and decided to try it. Really, I thought it was safe because it was only a couple hours commitment of my time. Nothing too strenuous for me, just check people in to have their pictures taken.

I show up to work and found I was paired with Linda Medley. At the time, I only knew Linda and Dave as the couple who sat in the back row of the church on Saturday nights. She only knew me as the lady with the two red-headed babies running back to the cry room or down to the restrooms. Well, Linda started talking to me about this parish, what it meant to her, her family, her history and her faith journey. I found myself doing a bit of the same. Then she says to me, “You should really be a RE teacher.”

 I thought she was crazy. She must not have heard me right. “We’re just getting back into church” was code for “we’re really not going to Mass regularly” so how can I possibly be a teacher. But she didn’t let it go. She got into my head. At the time, Mary Morris was the DRE, and I knew Mary, so I thought I’d just give her a call and ask some questions to find out what this RE thing was all about. Well, those of you who know Mary, know how that conversation went – 3rd grade Catechist – that’s how it went! I hung up the phone with “what just happened?” going through my head. My only consolation was that with all that catholic education, I had to know more than a room full of 3rd graders!

Alan’s path started the same way with Linda grabbing his arm in church and saying “You’re going to be an usher” and he still ushers to this day. And that’s how our journey began. So you see, I was a lost sheep. And while the foundation set by my mother and grandmother got me through those church doors, it was through ministries that parishioners grabbed me and brought me into the fold.

 Look at these banners! This is who we are, this is how we reach people, this is how we serve as apostles of Christ. It was no fluke that day many years ago when I was paired with Linda. That was divine intervention. That’s why I’m standing before you today. That’s why I’m so passionate about expanding our embrace to bring those lost sheep back to the flock. Over the past many years, our stewardship of time and talent has grown tremendously. And we found that as our stewardship of time and talent grew, our faith grew. As our faith grew, our stewardship of treasure grew.

You know what I realized? We do not give to things that do not matter to us. We give to things that matter to us. And we give generously to things that matter a great deal to us. And my faith and this parish family mean a great deal to me. Continuing the sacrifices that generations before us have done for 172 years in this community to ensure that we continue to grow and expand to embrace others and bring them closer to Christ means a great deal to me. So that’s why Alan and I have prayerfully decided to make a sacrificial gift to this campaign that IS within the giving chart presented to us.

It won’t be easy, but as I tell my kids, the right thing to do isn’t always the easiest. So I ask of only one thing for you today, and that is to take your contribution to prayer. Open up your heart to hear what God has in mind for you. Throw out all those excuses and truly listen to Him. Then join my family next week in presenting your sacrificial gift to Expand our Embrace.