By Jim Wogan
The Home Campaign is well under way in the Diocese of Knoxville — with 34 parishes and mission churches now at various stages of participation. Early this year, 17 more parishes will join the campaign as Wave 3 participants.
While the Home Campaign operates nearly the same in each parish, there is one big difference. Each parish can determine how to use its share of the campaign funds to best meet its own particular needs.
At St. Dominic Church in Kingsport, the choice has less to do with buildings and more to do with building.
“We realized we’re in a very good spot, and it has nothing to do with me. It has to do with the sacrifice of parishioners from previous campaigns and the good work of previous pastors,” said Father Michael Cummins, pastor at St. Dominic since July 2014.
“We quickly realized we have no physical plant needs, no pressing needs. We have no debt — and that was from previous campaigns — through their sacrifice we were able to pay off debt.”
That left Father Cummins and his leadership team with an interesting choice — how to build the parish, when the parish is already on solid ground.
“We have a beautiful facility now, and we tend to be very fiscally responsible up here.
The church is very diverse. There are some who contribute very well, and there are others who can’t. We had to make sure the campaign was equitable,” said Marc Schurger, parish chairman of the Home Campaign.
“We didn’t come up with proposed projects willy-nilly. There was a concerted effort to canvass the parish for their input,” Mr. Schurger added.
Because St. Dominic is debt-free, has a church and family life center in good repair and a school with a high profile in the community, Father Cummins and his team are calling their effort “Maintenance to Mission,” with a goal to build the parish through ministry.
St. Dominic has targeted five priorities: a ministry for senior citizens, youth and young adults, Hispanics, and enhancing parish music and liturgy.
“One of the other goals of the campaign is to develop our communication and technology needs to enhance the ministry of the parish,” Father Cummins said. “We are a community that is grounded in our faith, but we are also a community that recognizes to be grounded in your faith means you have to keep living the faith in the world in which you are, and make use of the great resources we have.”
The Home Campaign was initiated by Bishop Stika in late 2014 with input from a committee of diocesan priests. Its mission is to build the Catholic Church in East Tennessee in five distinct ways — through parish projects, the Pope Francis Charitable Trust Fund, the Catholic Education Trust Fund, Priest Retirement Fund, and the Sacred Heart Cathedral Project.
Before the campaign kicked off at St. Dominic, questions about the need to participate were addressed.
“We are blessed, we have a facility that is paid for, we have programs that are pretty darn good but could be improved,” Mr. Schurger countered. “I said, maybe some of the other parishes in the diocese aren’t as lucky. Maybe there are greater needs. Why should we focus only on ourselves when there are other needs out there?”
Mr. Schurger is speaking from experience. He’s been a parishioner at St. Dominic for nearly 40 years and remembers when the parish wasn’t in such good shape financially.
“It was horrendous, we were in debt, and we had to go back to the diocesan Finance Committee. I had to go to the well a couple of times and ask for more money, and that was not easy. I wasn’t really wet behind the ears, but I really had no experience in that area, and then going to the bishop to ask for additional funds was not easy. It wasn’t fun.”
Those days are over. St. Dominic is working toward meeting a Home Campaign goal of $1.19 million.
And Father Cummins feels good about that.
“This next year will be our 75th anniversary as a church in Kingsport. I think there is a sense of history here, but I do think it’s a community that’s also open to growing and is willing to keep growing to meet the needs of where we’re at.”