Volume 1 - Issue 6  



October 11, 2010

What is Mission Advancement?
  The term mission advancement refers to a comprehensive, systematic process designed to carry forward the mission of the Church in a diocese, parish, religious community, school or other Catholic organization. This concept is clearly related to development or institutional advancement as it is used by various kinds of nonprofit organizations both faith-based and secular. What distinguishes development or advancement in the case of a Catholic organization is its deliberate focus on the mission of the Church, which is both divine and human and which is paradoxically
both similar to and completely different from other kinds of organizations that seek to develop or advance their missions.

What is similar to all other organizations?
Successful advancement requires strong leadership, excellent communications and a well-managed organization with an effective fundraising program.

What's different?
Although Catholic organizations use principles and techniques of financial management, personnel administration and professional fundraising to develop and manage the temporal resources that are essential for ministry, in the final analysis, the Church's mission extends beyond the practical day-to-day realities of institutional life to a realm that is profoundly spiritual. This all-important dimension of mystery (the sacramental nature of the Church) should never be an excuse for poor stewardship of the Church's resources. But it does require us to "look deeper" when we talk about our vision for the future and to attend to the special character of the Church as the Body of Christ when we formulate strategies and action plans for carrying out Christ's work in the world today.

Mission advancement requires the active leadership and support of the bishop, pastor, religious superior or chief administrator who is charged with the responsibility for expressing a clear sense of mission and priorities, building strong relationships with the people whose help is needed to carry out the organization's mission, and developing the human, physical and financial resources that are needed to make the organization's vision and plans for the future a reality.

What are the signs of a successful mission advancement program in a diocese, parish, religious community, school or other Catholic organization?

  • Strong leaders with a clear sense of purpose and a plan for the future.
  • Excellent communications that inform, inspire and invite clergy, religious and lay people to become engaged in the organization's work for the Church.
  • Temporal resources that are well-managed and that grow in proportion to the organization's vision and priorities.

In the end, a mission advancement program is only recognized as successful when the work of the Church is carried forward. This requires spiritual vitality, evangelization, the work of charity and the human and financial resources needed to sustain Christ's work. Mission advancement is never an end in itself. It is always a means to a much more important end—proclaiming the Gospel and building up the Body of Christ.

(podcast) Philanthropic Strategies in Today’s Economy
  On September 20, 2010, O’Meara Ferguson president and founder Patrick O’Meara spoke at the 48th Annual International Catholic Stewardship Council (ICSC) Conference. O’Meara began his talk, Philanthropic Strategies in Today’s Economy, by telling the audience that being in a struggling economy does not mean we simply dig in, wait for things to improve and then proceed. Rather, a struggling economy only means that we are operating in a slightly different operating environment – the mission has not changed.

Using the ideas of Pope Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate, and Pope John Paul II in Centisimus Annus, O’Meara focuses on defining the act of Christian gift. O’Meara reveals the criticality of the individual’s need to own and care for the mission of the Church. Alms giving is core to the Christian life – not because the Church has a need to pay its bills – but because the individual has the need to be a participant in the work of the Church and without that external manifestation of supporting their community, the internal life of transformation and conversion begins to die.

Answering the question posed by his talk title, O’Meara says there are a number of very good philanthropic strategies for today’s economy and only one bad strategy – focusing on the technical aspects of our fundraising. The first thing we must do is to philosophically look at the question, How are the activities we engage in causing conversion to happen within our donors?. O’Meara stresses the need to change our donor engagement strategy, going away from a focus on the emotive response, and instead working to make the act of gift an incarnation of their self-donation to Christ.

Returning to Caritas in Veritate, O’Meara shares how Pope Benedict XVI brings out that the entire social teaching of the Church is not based on justice – is it based on mercy – it is gift beyond the measure in which we have been given. It is the gift of Christ’s mercy in dying on the cross, given to each of us even though Christ knew we would continue to sin against Him. Tying this idea to fundraising, O’Meara says we must work to bring donors away from giving out of a sense of commutative justice, and instead our donors to a place where they want to give everything and all that they have is for the kingdom of God. This is done by asking them to own the mission which we are engaged in.

“In today’s economy”, O’Meara says, “when things are tight, if we begin asking people to give of their excess, what are we going to do? We’re going to fail.”

Instead, we must take them to a step of transformation and into deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. We must engage their will to Christ and His Church and cause self-donation. From this self-donation will come a sense of the familial by which donors will share more abundantly.

“The good news about this economy is that it causes us to go to the roots of “what do we do” and “what is this role the we’re engaged in”, and “what do we want to bring about from our donors.”Listen to the podcast

O’Meara Ferguson Funds Stewardship Center
“The promotion of the practice of stewardship is important for the mission of the Church and for the spiritual well-being of each individual Christian. Everyone benefits from the sacrificial gift one makes of his time, talent, and treasure.”
— Pope Benedict XVI

Since 2006 the Marian University Center for Catholic Stewardship has taught and promoted stewardship as a way of life both on campus and in over fifty dioceses in the United States, Canada, and the Philippines. As this edition of The Good Steward goes to press, the Center is preparing for an outreach to Catholics in mainland China. Under the direction of Father Daniel J. Mahan, a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, the Center for Catholic Stewardship presents diocesan and regional stewardship days, clergy retreats and days of reflection, parish missions and seminary study days.

In order to perpetuate and deepen the theology of stewardship as the Catholic Church faces the challenges of the third millennium, O’Meara Ferguson president and founder Patrick O’Meara has announced a major gift to Marian University to support the Center’s work. Recognizing the significance of this gift, Marian University President Daniel J. Elsener is renaming the center the O’Meara Ferguson Center for Catholic Stewardship.

Marian University’s vision is to provide an education that profoundly transforms lives, society, and the world...

read the full article

(podcast) Freeing the Imprisoned Donor:
Life-Giving Forms of Mission Advancement

Continuing on the theme from his July 2, 2010 article, Mission Advancement, O’Meara Ferguson president and founder Patrick O’Meara delves further into the topic of mission advancement with a particular focus on the role of the laity.

The podcast begins with a reinforcement of the call that everyone has to answer – Christ’s Great Commission – to go unto all the nations teaching them everything Christ taught us and baptizing the nations in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. O’Meara stresses that we are in great need of the laity taking ownership of this aspect of advancing the mission. And, he says, with this ownership, the laity are participants in the mission (giving of their time, talent, treasure and influence), and are invested in making sure the mission of the Church is carried forward. How these gifts of time, talent, treasure and influence are given, transforms the giver. The mechanism by which the gifts of the people are brought about can either free or imprison them, O’Meara says, and as such, these mechanisms are enormously important.

Another critical component in mission advancement is understanding the giver and act of gift itself. O’Meara reflects John Paul the Great’s The Acting Person, and explains the two forms of consciousness whereby man understands themselves – se nosse and se cogito. With se nosse, we know ourselves with immediacy in an “I” relationship to another object which has an intrinsic value in and of itself. In se cogito, the more immature form, man is reflective upon themselves as the object.

Mission advancement, O’Meara reiterates, is the activity by which the laity are brought into the very heart and essence of the Church. And while some erroneously believe fundraising is extraneous to the Gospel, if we can make sure that the goal mission advancement is the work of the Gospel itself and that funds come in through the work of mission advancement where the essence of the activity is the conversion of the individual, then:

  1. we are engaged in true mission advancement, and
  2. the amount that we fundraise will be much greater.

“We must seek each individual in and of themselves to be a participant in the work of the Church – and that they are the end, not the means, to the advancement of the mission of the Church. We must build them up in the form of conversion, in order to get the greatest benefit from mission advancement for the individual, and the institution.”

Listen to the podcast

O'Meara Ferguson 2010 Conference  •  October 20 - 22, 2010  •  Chicago, Illinois

Identity and Act: The Role of the Laity, the Parish, Schools, the Donor and the Economy in Advancing the Mission of the Church
  • Registration Fee: $200.00 (travel costs not included)
    • Includes all workshops; dinner on Wednesday; breakfast, lunch and dinner on Thursday; and breakfast and lunch on Friday
  • Rooms at the Renaissance Chicago Downtown are available for $199.00 prior to September 25 and $239.00 after this date.
  • For conference and hotel registration, please call Sally Wagner at 734-930-4228.
  • Conference Agenda
The conference will begin with a two-part symposium co-sponsored by the Archdioceses of Cincinnati and Chicago. The symposium, The Intersection of Mission Advancement and Theology, is free and open to the public.
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