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Catholic St. Louisans drive successful Beyond Sunday campaign

The Beyond Sunday capital campaign is the outgrowth of the seed Archbishop Robert J. Carlson planted eight years ago, soon after his arrival in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

He identified Catholic education as his top priority in the Alive! In Christ initiative, later included it among the four pillars of the beONE vision then made it the primary focus of the historic Beyond Sunday campaign, which was launched in June 2015 by the newly formed Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri.

My, how the archbishop's education seed has grown.

With the campaign winding down and pledges still trickling in, St. Louis Catholics have eclipsed the $100 million goal, with $105 million pledged to date.

Mark Guyol, president/CEO of the Roman Catholic Foundation, described the campaign's success as, simply, "awesome."

"Our 25,000 Catholic households have shown their incredible generosity and commitment to ensuring the future of Catholic education in the archdiocese," he said, praising "our wonderful pastors and parochial administrators ... parish campaign chairs and committees for their incredible time and effort" during each parish's six-month campaign.

He likewise commended Archbishop Carlson for "his leadership, vision and inspiration" in laying out plans for Catholic education well into the future.

Beyond Sunday's $100 million goal was twice as much as the previous record campaign in St. Louis — the $50 million Faith in the Future campaign to renovate and upgrade Kenrick-Glennon Seminary into a state-of-art facility for the formation of priests in the 21st century. That campaign drew $61 million in pledges. Beyond Sunday, which also benefits parishes (see accompanying story), built on that success, with a goal beyond earthly dollars and cents.

"It's certainly a campaign about the investing in Catholic education and our Catholic communities, but it's about much more than that," Guyol said. "It's about saving souls."

Parishioners throughout the archdiocese made it so.

"It's beautiful when the Catholic community gets behind something," Guyol said.

Importance of Catholic education

For donors big and small, pledges toward the future of Catholic education were well worth it.

"The reason I donated, very simply, is it's absolutely necessary; it's part of how you build character and professionalism in the work place," Dr. Michael Conoyer said. "I'm a physician and too many people in my profession do things because they can, not necessarily because they should. ... It's very important to understand why you should and why you should not.

"The importance of character formation ... in the end, that's all that counts."

A St. Cletus parishioner, Conoyer is a product of Catholic education, at St. Charles Borromeo School and at Duchesne High School. His three children with his wife, Carol, added a Catholic college — St. Louis University — to Catholic grade school and high school.

Catholic education is "an extension of what goes on in the home," he said. "Home is primary, and Catholic education keeps the education at home going in the right direction. Catholic education is ... an important adjunct of what you learn from your parents."

Many throughout the archdiocese agree and know firsthand about the quality of Catholic education and the qualities gleaned from it.

Cheri and Jim Sauer of Perryville attended Catholic grade schools and high schools and are passing on Catholic education to their children: Dominic and Charlie are a senior and sophomore, respectively, at St. Vincent High School; Monica is in eighth grade, Brigid in fifth and Daniel in second at the parish grade school; 4-year-old Kolbe is still at home, with Catholic schooling to come.

With six children and one income, the Sauers already have benefited from Beyond Sunday scholarships. And Charlie has joined fellow Beyond Sunday scholars for service projects experiencing a bit of the universal Church beyond Perryville.

"I like that it's a network of young adults," Cheri Sauer said. 'They're getting to know other kids: 'Hey, it's OK to be Catholic. It's OK to have this background and to be strong in the faith.'"

Benefiting from Beyond Sunday scholarships led the family to pledge, as well.

"They're helping us so we should be willing to sacrifice also to help someone else," Cheri said, adding a simple goal. "Then, they will see God working in their lives."

The family dug deep to make the sacrificial pledge but divided the total donation into monthly payments over five years.

"That dollar amount was doable," said Cheri, who sees the work of God in Beyond Sunday. "When you do what God wants, it's not always going to be easy, but He shows so many other blessings." 

Parishes reap benefits of Beyond Sunday success 

 Working on a cherrypicker raised to about three stories, Kevin O'Brien used a simple utility knife to slice through silicone caulk partially securing — along with finish nails — quarter-inch plexiglas to the stained-glass windows at St. Francis Borgia Church in Washington.

Then, he merely wiggled the once-clear plastic and pulled it free to reveal the beauty it had been protecting for at least 40 years ... and hiding in recent years.

But thanks to the Beyond Sunday campaign and parishioners' generous souls, the now-opaque, dingy gray storm windows are being replaced with tempered glass to let the sun shine in and allow the rich colors to show through.

"Part of the joy of this job is hearing people be so joyous over the difference, to be able to see the windows," said O'Brien of O'Brien Stained Glass Co., Inc, out of Rollingstone, Minn.

With the project only halfway home, parishioners already have noticed.

"The (sun)light actually comes through now," pastor Father Joseph Wormek joked.

The generosity of St. Francis Borgia's parishioners in the Beyond Sunday campaign led to this project, among several either underway or coming up with the parish distribution portion of the campaign. Parishes throughout the archdiocese are using the distributions — funds raised by their own parishioners — to upgrade parking lots, fix roofs, build playgrounds, fund ministries and more.

At St. Francis Borgia, Father Wormek is following in the footsteps of previous pastors in beautifying and upgrading the parish's buildings and property. In addition to the windows, the front of the church and the bell tower are being tuck-pointed to match the brickwork on the sides of the vintage-1869 church and nearby buildings.

Both projects had been on the parish's wish list.

"We said, 'One of these years we really need to do this," Father Wormek said. "This was the top priority."

Next on tap is air conditioning for the school, leaving the parish with about $250,000 to be used to further enhance Catholic education by adding to the parish school's endowment to assist parish families.

Up on the roof

The roof of Sts. Teresa and Bridget Church has begun to show its age, on the inside of the building — never a good sign. At this point, water damage is limited to the four corners of the sanctuary, with peeling paint and dropping plaster, but the beautiful paintings on the ceiling are imperiled.

"We're hoping to get enough money to replace the roof to keep the paintings that are inside dry," said pastor Father Tim Cook, estimating that the existing slate roof has been in place for "at least 50 years. As much as it's about saving the ceiling, the real project is to replace the existing roof."

The Beyond Sunday distribution will help in that regard, but it also demonstrates a thriving parish.

"For me as pastor, it means our parishioners are generous and the returns from the archdiocese are very generous," said Father Cook, adding that parishioners' largess relates to the universal Church. "We feel in any kind of these programs, whether it's ACA or Beyond Sunday, that we are supporting the larger Church, not just our local parish."

Accessibility and fish fries

At St. Alban Roe, a new elevator will be installed with Beyond Sunday distributions to enhance access to the lower-level hall from the church. Currently, parishioners have to navigate steps, which poses problems for people with walking challenges.

Or, there's the un-green option.

"They have to get in their car and drive all the way around the back to get in the hall," pastor Father Richard Stoltz said.

The elevator will get a lot of use in conjunction with Lenten fish fries, which "have really taken off over the past couple of years," Father Stoltz said, praising the collaboration of the Men's Club and Knights of Columbus.

Soon, they'll be cooking in the hall's remodeled kitchen, which "hasn't had anything done to it since 1983 when it was put in," he said, adding that the new elevator and kitchen remodel will complete the hall's makeover.

Like St. Francis Borgia and many other parishes, St. Alban Roe also will use some of its parish distribution for scholarships to its school, an example of parishes returning their returns to Catholic education. 

Outdoor space gives students a sense of God's creation 

The seventh-graders at Assumption School in south St. Louis County gathered around a garden at their school and checked out the progress of the vegetables they helped plant.

For the most part, the fast-growing, cool-season vegetables — green beans, peas, radishes, lettuce, cabbage, beets and spinach — were doing fine. New seeds recently were planted in some barren squares.

The teacher, Bryan Jones, taught the students in the outdoor STREAM Care for Creation Classroom about Mel Bartholomew, the inventor of their system of gardening. Bartholomew was a construction engineer who made urban gardening more efficient by inventing square foot gardening with a gridlike framework to a raised garden. It enables more seeds to be used in less space, needing less water and inhibiting weeds.

Jones, a master gardener trained at the Missouri Botanical Garden, incorporated various STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math) concepts. He asked them to quickly come up with the number of foot-long squares (4 across times 12 in length = 48) and the number of square feet (48).

Other topics he covered in a 40-minute class included nutrition, sustainability and care for God's creation. "We want to get the kids back to nature and to appreciate and learn to take care of God's creation," he said later.

The outdoor classroom was made possible by a Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri Academic Capacity Enhancement Grant. Assumption Parish received $39,598.

Students conduct science experiments to compare different growth rates, the effect of shade on plant growth, traditional vs. square foot gardening and more. In addition to the class time in the outdoor lab, the school's Green Club makes use of and helps take care of it. Club members measured and installed the square foot garden.

Seventh-grader Karley Yahl said, "We get to see what God created, and I think it's so beautiful. We get to care for the chickens and learn that God created us to have dominion over the earth."

The chickens teach sustainability. The eggs will be used in the school cafeteria and donated to people in need helped by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The purpose is to learn to respect God's resources — animals and land. School parents installed video cameras for livestreaming of the hens for educational purposes and surveillance.

Paul Zafarri, also in the seventh grade, said the project was a good idea because "we're learning to grow plants (organically) and take care of other living things."

The STREAM Care for Creation Classroom provides a space for Assumption's early learning center and parish school students to explore and care for God's creation while learning how just one small connection with the environment impacts the natural world and benefits those who live here.

Father Thomas Keller, pastor of Assumption Parish, said that about a year ago he began looking at ways to better use parts of the parish campus. The site of the new outdoor classroom once was a playground, but then was vacant. Knowing that children spend much of their time in front of video screens — Assumption School has an abundance of technology with tablets, Smart boards and more — he thought it might be best to get the children outdoors experiencing nature and learning about conservation, ecosystems, food sources and more.

"With the raised flower beds, wildflowers and chickens, the kids can have an experience they may not have at home," Father Keller said. "Encountering creation would give them a sense of our Creator."

Parishioners, parents, students, teachers and staff contributed. Parishioners built the raised garden beds, chicken run and compost holder, as well as cleared the land for installation and landscaping of Missouri native plants. Parents helped with landscaping and graphics. Scouts built more garden beds and the Stations of the Cross; another stained the outdoor classroom benches. Matthew Magoc, a parishioner who is an education consultant for the Missouri Department of Conservation, lent his expertise. A family from St. Angela Merici Parish in Florissant was the source for the chickens.

"None of it would be possible without the Beyond Sunday grant," Father Keller said. 

Take it outdoors

The new STREAM Care for Creation Classroom at Assumption Parish in south St. Louis County implements STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math) curriculum through the examination of climatology, horticulture, biology, botany, art, music and religion in an outdoor, hands-on environment. The classroom also provides space and resources to parish organizations.

The project seeks to increase enrollment, improve the academic experience, teach stewardship of environment and provide holistic development for each child.

Staff and volunteers have established:

• Raised garden beds and planter boxes

• A chicken coop and run (with chickens)

• Statues of Our Lady Help of Christians and St. Francis of Assisi and a Stations of the Cross

• Missouri native plants (and more to come)

• A fire pit and seating (not funded by grant)

• Painted educational murals on pavement

A weather station and solar and wind technology are among features to be introduced later. 

Beyond Sunday | By the numbers (as of September)

1 • million dollars in grants to schools and PSR programs, and to the archdiocesan Catholic Education Office

132 • elementary schools or high schools with students who have been awarded scholarships over the past two years

184 • parishes that have received distributions

1,520 • unique students who have been award scholarships over the past two years

$68,625 • average family income for students receiving scholarships

$3.7 million • value of scholarships awarded

$14.6 million • value of parish distributions

$19.3 million • impact of Beyond Sunday in scholarships, grants and parish distributions

$25 million • assets under management at the Roman Catholic Foundation: $17 million in the Beyond Sunday Education Endowment Fund and $8 million in other funds

$100 million • goal of the campaign

$105 million • pledges to date (still trickling in)

More information • www.rcfstl.org; (314) 918-2890

Source: Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri 

Beyond Sunday grants

The Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri awarded 18 grants worth $777,471 to benefit 48 schools or PSR programs in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, with $730,731 distributed in 2017 and $46,740 to be distributed in 2018. The grants:

Amount, project: awardee(s)

• $100,000 (teacher capacity): Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Ferguson); Christ, Light of the Nations (St. Louis County); Holy Trinity (St. Ann); Our Lady of Guadalupe (Ferguson); Sacred Heart (Florissant); St. Ann (Normandy); St. Ferdinand (Florissant); St. Norbert (Florissant); and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne (Florissant)

• $80,000 (FAITH: Faith Alive in the Home): Holy Trinity (St. Ann) and St. Ann (Normandy)

• $75,000 (science lab renovation): St. Pius X High School (Festus)

• $65,985 (zSpace Lab for STEM learning): Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School (St. Louis)

• $60,700 (STREAM curriculum) Holy Cross Academy – all campuses; Annunciation PSR (Webster Groves), St. Dominic Savio PSR (Affton), Our Lady of Providence PSR (Crestwood), and St. Michael the Archangel PSR (Shrewsbury)

• $50,000 (Makerspace): Most Holy Trinity (St. Louis), St. Cecilia (St. Louis), St. Louis Catholic (St. Louis)

• $48,970 (STREAM curriculum): St. Paul (Fenton)

• $40,400 (STREAM integration): Holy Child (Arnold)

• $40,000 (Project-based learning collaboration): Ste. Genevieve DuBois (Warson Woods), Most Sacred Heart (Eureka), Sacred Heart (Valley Park), and Holy Redeemer (Webster Groves)

• $39,598 (Care for Creation classroom): Assumption (Mattese)

• $39,000 (inclusion): Immaculate Conception (Dardenne Prairie)

• $35,000 (Gator Exploratorium – STREAM lab): Christ, Prince of Peace (Manchester)

• $30,450 (STREAM on the Move): St. Raphael the Archangel (St. Louis)

• $25,000 (Conserving Creation): Christ the King (University City)

• $20,000 (Science collaboration): St. Joseph (Josephville) and St. Alphonsus (Millwood)

• $15,000 (Library enhancement) St. Joseph (Farmington)

• $13,068 (multimedia for Millennials): Duchesne High School (St. Charles)

In addition, the archdiocesan Catholic Education Office received a $250,000 grant and 10 schools received a $1,000 "Spark" grant — to spark collaboration and planning for a future grant application: Holy Rosary (Warrenton), Immaculate Conception (Union), Our Lady of Lourdes (Washington), St. Anthony (Sullivan), St. Bridget of Kildare (Pacific), St. Clare (St. Clair), St. Francis Borgia (Washington), St. Gertrude (Krakow), St. John the Baptist (Gildehaus), and St. Vincent (Dutzow)

Source: Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri


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