Stewardship of Arlington Diocese's finances grounded in faith

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Love of people, the Eucharist and the church are reasons men are drawn to the priesthood; an affinity for collection baskets and financial minutiae are not. Yet a commitment to financial prudence and strength is essential to a flourishing parish and diocese, and Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde has made it a priority during his tenure.

Timothy Cotnoir, diocesan finance officer, said the diocese is in strong shape financially "due in large part to Bishop Loverde's tireless efforts" focused on Catholic education, assisting the poor and encouraging the faithful to prayerfully discern their contribution to the Bishop's Lenten Appeal and parish offertory.

"The bishop has a great ability to help people understand what we are trying to do with funds," added Development Office Director Robert Mueller. "He explains how our efforts fuel the mission of the church, … (which is) to bring people to Christ."

In 2001, two years after arriving in Arlington, Bishop Loverde launched the "Rooted in Faith - Forward in Hope" capital campaign. With an ambitious goal of $75 million, it set out to support a diocese that had grown more than 260 percent since it was founded in 1974.

The bishop hoped the campaign would "allow us to come together in deeper unity," he said in a 2003 interview with the Catholic Herald. "What we do these next few years will have a tremendous impact on our future."

The campaign officially ended in 2007, and with about $97 million collected from 28,500 donors, that future is robust.

The monies raised went toward Catholic education, including the founding of Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries, tuition assistance and a youth ministry endowment. It financed a variety of Catholic Charities efforts, such as renovations to Christ House in Alexandria and the formation of St. Margaret of Cortona Transitional Residences in Woodbridge, which provide emergency housing for homeless families. It also funded the creation of San Damiano Spirituality Center, a renovated Franciscan monastery in White Post, and the St. Rose of Lima Priest Retirement Villa in Annandale.

Churches received a hefty portion of the fundraising total, with nearly 40 percent going back to the parishes. It provided seed money for the construction of Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville and for new churches for All Saints in Manassas and St. Theresa in Ashburn. It also funded many parish renovation projects.

While the capital campaign supported an expanded vision for the diocese, the BLA has financed its ongoing ministries, including the Vocations Office, evangelization efforts, victim assistance, youth and young adult ministries, and the Office for Family Life and the Respect Life Office, as well as the Virginia Catholic Conference.

During the bishop's first year in Arlington, 20 percent of parishioners participated in the BLA, and around $4.5 million was raised. By 2014, that had jumped to 33 percent of diocesan parishioners raising more than $17 million. Since 2000, the BLA has collected nearly $155 million.

Along with the capital campaign and BLA, the bishop has overseen the implementation of a scholarship tax-credit program, which helps low-income students attend Catholic schools. In 2011, he established the Foundation for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, a nonprofit that receives and grows restricted charitable endowment gifts that provide long-term support to parishes, schools and the diocese.

"The bishop could have stopped there," said Mueller. "Instead he asked, 'Is there anything more we should be doing?'" After gathering information from around the diocese, he launched "Partners United in the Heart of Christ: Leadership Initiative 2015." Serving as a mini capital campaign, the initiative is a limited fundraising effort with a goal of $55.5 million. More than $43 million has been raised from approximately 100 priests and 400 families.

In all his fundraising efforts, Bishop Loverde is "engaged (and) transparent," said Cotnoir. His stewardship, he added, always has been "solidly rooted in his love of Christ and for His bride, the church."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015