In January 2014, the Diocese of Richmond, which boasts a legacy of faith lasting nearly 200 years, launched its first-ever comprehensive capital campaign. Though it was an unprecedented and daunting effort, the Living Our Mission campaign has so far been an astounding success. As of May 2015, only one half of the Diocese’s 153 parishes and missions have run in the campaign, and it has raised 2/3 of the goal, or over $42 million. It is tracking at 140 percent of the original $65-million goal.

Marked by its high number of mission parishes and stretching across 33,000 square miles, the Diocese faced daunting challenges: the struggle many families have to afford Catholic education, difficulties in preserving and restoring historic parishes due to lack of funding, challenges in fully funding priest retirement, a desire to more fully implement the New Evangelization, and the desire to more deeply engage youth and young adults, especially in over 60 college and university campuses throughout the diocese.

Though it was an unprecedented and daunting effort, the Living Our Mission campaign has so far been an astounding success.

The campaign is enabling the diocese to address these and other concerns, especially by establishing its own community foundation and growing endowments that will strengthen the Diocese’s long-term financial position for carrying out the Church’s mission in the areas of seminarian education, campus ministry, and tuition assistance at Catholic schools. An endowment for mission parishes and social ministry outreach will also be established.

The mission parishes are an integral part of the Church in southern Virginia. Without them, instead of driving 30 or 40 miles each way to receive the sacraments, some Catholics would have to travel 60 or 80 miles. It takes nearly 7 hours to drive from Virginia Beach at the eastern end of the diocese to Bristol on the western end, which borders Tennessee, and this makes it difficult for many Catholics to attend diocesan-wide catechist trainings, conferences, and retreats without long travel. The campaign-funded distance learning network will establish throughout the expansive diocese virtual classroom sites like those some universities have built, making opportunities for ministry training much more readily available to the faithful.

With Greater Mission’s focus on the spiritual value of the campaign, which invites Catholics throughout the Diocese to prayerfully consider their best sacrifice to help build the future of the Church and the Kingdom of God, the campaign garnered the broad support of pastors throughout the Diocese, 85 percent of whom voted that it should proceed.

The highly-tailored campaign model the Diocese has implemented under Greater Mission’s counsel has been adapted for each parish and has enabled many parishes to address significant local needs while supporting the work of the larger Church. For example, St. Francis in Staunton, Virginia, home to a vibrant Catholic community since the 1800s, needs to replace the green stone on the exterior of the church—an ambitious $3-million project for a parish with an annual income of $450,000. Combining the local effort to raise funds for the stone restoration with the overall Living Our Mission campaign enabled the parish to surpass its $1.8 million goal in only four months, closing the funding gap to solve a problem that has plagued the parish for decades. St. Bede parish has long been renting space throughout Williamsburg for its many ministries, and it has raised more than $8 million to build a parish center and centralize its ministries and administration alongside its church.

A bright future indeed for the Diocese of Richmond, its parishes, and its schools!