St. Francis: Staunton, VA
Since 1895, the magnificent limestone church home to St. Francis of Assisi parish has fostered a strong Catholic community in the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, a Diocese marked by its number of mission parishes. St. Francis parish has stood as a prominent witness to Christ and His Church from a hilltop in Staunton, Virginia, a small city in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Over the past few decades, however, the striking green exterior stone of the church was deteriorating and was literally crumbling by 2014. The community had tried sealant to keep the façade intact, but, through an extensive engineering study, the only viable long-term solution was determined to be complete replacement of the stone.
As the community settled on the long-term solution, years of consultation and study came to fruition through Living Our Mission, the Diocese of Richmond’s first-ever comprehensive capital campaign.
With the counsel of Greater Mission, the Diocese offered parishes a combined campaign model so that, in addition to raising funds for parish-level needs with a parish sharing formula, parishes could set higher goals to fund extraordinary local priorities within the context of the Living Our Mission campaign.
St. Francis elected to raise four times its annual income, a tremendous stretch goal of $1.8 million, so that the community would be in a position to fully finance the $3.0-million stone replacement project.
In a short span of four months, the parish reached its goal and has since raised a total of $1.9 million. Coupled with broad participation, strong leadership giving, including 3 six-figure pledges, enabled the parish to supersede a very challenging goal.
Fr. Joe Wamala, the pastor, and Greg Ridenour, the lay campaign chair, emphasized the momentous nature of the project from the outset, pointing out that not even every generation is called upon to rebuild a parish in order to build up the Kingdom of God.
Ridenour commented “I wanted to be involved in the campaign because it ties everything together – both geographically speaking, the local parish and whole diocese, but more importantly generationally, building on what has gone before and setting the stage for success in the future. The great thing about ‘success’ in the context of the Church is it means we bring souls closer to God.”