The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh will launch a $125 million fundraising campaign in January, with 40 percent of donations going directly back to the parishes that raise them.
Through quiet conversations with major donors, Bishop David Zubik said, initial pledges have already reached more than $25 million. Planning has been under way for 18 months, with a feasibility study that interviewed most priests and about 350 laity in the 635,000-member diocese.
The response was enthusiastic, the bishop said.
"The overwhelming focus of what they said was that the campaign should focus on the intangibles, all of the things that the church does and needs to be able to do, as opposed to a campaign for buildings," he said.
Some of the many planned expenditures include creating a $1 million endowment to permanently fund dental care at the Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center, Downtown, $1.5 million for evangelization of fallen-away Catholics, $7 million in grants to isolated needy parishes, $1 million to campus ministry and $2 million to support education of autistic students in parish schools. The single largest allocation is $12 million in needs-based tuition grants for parish children to attend Catholic schools.
Because many programs the diocese will fund with its 60 percent share directly benefit parishes, the parishes will actually receive about 70 percent of the money raised, he said.
Bishop Zubik sought to counter what he said was a growing misconception that the campaign was designed to support the impending Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry. Just $2 million is earmarked to assist with construction costs at the school, although $8 million will be held in reserve in case it is needed for debt service.
"Just 3 percent of the money goes toward the new high school, and that is to repay the diocese for money that was spent to buy the property," he said. The only other bricks-and-mortar diocesan projects are $5 million for retired priests that will include expansion of their residence, St. John Vianney Manor, and $10 million to be held in reserve for a planned move of the chancery staff to St. Paul Seminary in East Carnegie, in case sale of the Downtown chancery building doesn't cover the cost.
All money raised for the diocese will go into Our Church Alive, a new tax-exempt fund that is separate from central diocesan administration, said the Rev. Lawrence DiNardo, chairman of the Pastors Advisory Committee for the campaign.
"This campaign is ... about the church alive for the future and about generations beyond this one," he said.
Marie Milie Jones, an attorney and parishioner at St. Kilian in Cranberry, was co-chair of the Case Priorities Task Force that recommended how the money should be allocated.
"There was an overriding desire to support the bishop's focus on keeping the diocese alive, making sure that we aren't just looking at bricks and mortar but at what we can do to help people practice their faith in the best possible way," she said.
Representatives of the consulting firm for that project were impressed with the support from the priests, said Ronald Petnuch, her co-chair and a businessman from St. Bede in Point Breeze.
"They've done this in a lot of dioceses, and we literally blew away the others in terms of how our priests felt about supporting this," he said.
Fifty-four of 204 parishes volunteered for the initial group of nine that will pilot the program in January. The remaining parishes will launch in several phases over two years. They will be asked to raise 175 percent of their annual regular offering -- not counting Parish Share and other fundraisers -- to be given over five years.
St. Sebastian in Ross was already planning its own capital campaign, but decided to combine it with the campaign and raise more than the diocese had asked for. The assigned goal was more than $2.1 million and St. Sebastian intends to raise an additional $900,000, said the Rev. John Rushofsky, the pastor. The parish will create a safer entrance to its school by building a new access road.
St. Charles Lwanga in Homewood will be one of the nine pilot parishes.
"It's a very economically challenged community, and our needs are many," the Rev. David Taylor said.
Despite the difficulty of raising money, "I know how deeply faithful and committed the people have been, and I'm very hopeful," he said.