Legacy Campaign cabinet members reflect on experience

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The Diocese of Nashville hosted a special dinner for major donors of the Legacy of Faith, Hope and Love Campaign in gratitude for their support Tuesday, Oct. 18, in Bishops Hall at the Catholic Pastoral Center. As part of that thank you, each donor received a personalized copy of the “Diocese of Nashville: Family of Faith” history book and a rosary blessed by Bishop J. Mark Spalding. Clark Baker smiles as he clutches the history book. Photos by Katie Peterson

As the main portion of fundraising comes to an end with the Legacy of Faith, Hope, and Love Campaign, the Diocese of Nashville is closing in on its $50 million goal. 

As of Thursday, Dec. 15, the campaign has raised $43,707,651.

It’s an accomplishment due, in large part, to the campaign cabinet members who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes for the last three years, said Ashley Linville, director of the Office of Stewardship and Development.

“None of this could’ve been done without having such a great cabinet,” said Ashley Linville, director of the Office of Stewardship and Development. “From the very beginning, even though we were in the throes of COVID-19 when we were looking to kick this off, this group was committed.

“They gave of their time, their talent, and their treasure. That group was the support early on that really helped get this campaign off the ground,” he said. “Then, they reached out to others and helped bring in those early gifts that really set the stage for the campaign as we moved into the parish waves” in the fall of 2021.

“That was so important. Because we were able to share how much we had already raised, I think parishioners saw the campaign in a much different light,” he said. “When you hear that $50 million goal, it seems scary, but when you’re able to see the progress that has already been made, it helps you realize that it is possible.”

The $50 million goal was daunting to cabinet members, too, at first.

“I thought it was too high. I really did,” said Lucy Blair, one of the campaign chairs. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. How are we ever going to make this happen? But, my husband, Marty said, ‘Lucy, we’ve got this. We can make this happen. You just have to believe and do it.’”

“I was not surprised by Bishop Spalding’s foresight and enthusiasm,” added Legacy Campaign Cabinet Member Greg Pope.

“But, given a lack of significant fundraising efforts in the past several years, I thought the goal was a bit aggressive. I would quickly come to understand the leadership team had clear vision, a compelling message, excellent staff and consultants, and most importantly true faith in God’s providence. This propelled us toward success.”  

Now, seeing the near-end result, cabinet members said they’re amazed at the response of the Catholics of Middle Tennessee.

“I’ve just been amazed at how well the campaign has been received. The number is astounding to me,” Legacy Campaign Cabinet Member John Stockdale said. “In this time period, I just think it shows what people want for the future of our diocese, and it’s very exciting to me.”

Bubba Donnelly points out the personalization on the history book to his wife Chris Donnelly. The Donnellys served as campaign co-chairs.

“People have definitely responded,” added Chris Donnelly, a campaign co-chair. “It’s unbelievable. “The pastors were vital, and they were also enthusiastic,” she added. “They understood the need and the benefit.” 

The $50 million A Legacy of Faith, Hope and Love Campaign is a diocesan-wide fundraising initiative to build up endowments to support in perpetuity parishes, schools, ministries, vocations, and agencies of the diocese.   

The campaign was rolled out at churches across the diocese in three waves, with a different group of churches in each wave. Wave One and Wave Two are complete. Wave Three churches will finish up commitment weekends into the new year.

While the main fundraising portion will come to an end, Linville said one-on-one discussions with more potential donors will be had in hopes of reaching that $50 million goal.

Steier Group, a capital campaign fundraising firm out of Omaha, Nebraska, has assisted dioceses in similar campaigns all around the country. Corporate donations have covered the fees for Steier Group to assist the diocese in managing the campaign. Their work in Nashville ends Dec. 31.

The campaign cabinet was led by four chairpersons: Chris and Bubba Donnelly and Marty and Lucy Blair, who are all parishioners of St. Henry Church in Nashville.

When Bishop Spalding initially reached out to ask if the Donnellys would consider being chairpersons, “I felt like we could be of service,” Chris Donnelly recalled. 

“We’re old Nashville Catholics, so we know the different families and the legacies,” added Bubba Donnelly. “We know the people that have been involved in all these parishes, so we bring some institutional knowledge to the campaign.”

The Blairs also have a history with the diocese, particularly with their involvement in starting the annual Advancement of Catholic Education (ACE) Awards event to help revive the endowment, which helps provide tuition assistance to families who desire a Catholic education for their children but can’t afford it on their own.

“ACE is such a big thing for us. My parents sent my whole family to Catholic schools. I’m one of six children, and they had to sacrifice a lot to make that happen,” explained Lucy Blair. “It’s just very important to us to make that available to future generations.”

And knowing that Catholic education would receive the largest portion of the campaign funds, they knew they had to get involved, Marty Blair said.

Mike Kelly shows the rosary, which was blessed by Bishop Spalding, to his wife, Cathy.

Plus, “it’s hard to say ‘no’ to Bishop Spalding,” he said. “Bishop is so engaging and so dynamic, and he wants everybody to think about being part of something larger than just your parish.

“He’s just done a great job of addressing the needs head on, and he’s right at the forefront of everything that’s going on,” Marty Blair continued. “He’s leading the charge for sure.”

It also helped to learn that they’d be partnering with the Donnellys.

“We were both very excited to have the opportunity to work with Chris and Bubba Donnelly,” said Marty Blair. “That’s who we’ve always wanted to be when we grow up.”

“They are two of the best, most special people that we know,” Lucy Blair added. “When Bishop said, ‘It’s going to be you and Marty, and Bubba and Chris,’ I thought, ‘We get to work with the dream team.’ They’re just so inspiring and just amazing people.”

Serving alongside the chairpersons were the campaign cabinet, which includes parishioners from churches throughout the diocese. They include: Dr. Carolyn and Clark Baker; Sandy and Francis Bedard; Linda and David Bohan; Betty Lou and James Burnett; Valerie and Brian Cooper, chancellor and chief operating officer for the diocese; Lynda Evjen; Elizabeth and John Gromos; Cathy and Mike Kelly; Lynn and William Krueger; Gino Marchetti; Rebekah and Greg Pope; Anita and Gregory Sandfort; Sally and Edward Stack; Jeanne and William Stejskal III; Valarie and John Stockdale; and Carol and Bill Whalen, Sr.

“I’ve been privileged to work in development and fundraising activities for many years, so when asked by the bishop and others to participate, it was an honor for me and my wife, Rebekah, to agree to serve,” said Pope, a parishioner of St. Matthew Church in Franklin.  

“It was just a great opportunity to get involved,” added Stockdale, a parishioner of St. Edward Church in Nashville.

Now, as they reflect back at the work done, cabinet members agree that it was an all-around positive experience.

“I really enjoyed just getting to meet people, talk with people,” said Stockdale. “Hearing everybody’s concerns and wants and hopes was rewarding.”

“I found it a gift to participate and to work alongside friends,” added Pope. “The team worked well together.  We had a good diversity of skill and talent and a spirit of solidarity.   

“There is much unseen work in preparing for a campaign,” he continued. “It’s not a matter of randomly asking for gifts but being thoughtful before inviting participation, such as when to invite, who to invite, and how best to assist individuals and families in making a good and meaningful gift.  

“Success requires a group of volunteers who trust each other deeply, and we were blessed to have that,” Pope concluded. “I was honored to be asked to participate and look forward to the future with great hope because we’ve raised much more than money.  A renewed commitment to ministry, and a unified vision toward a bright future are but two of the many gifts that have come from the Legacy Campaign.” 

Lucy Blair said it’s been a great way to get to know those they didn’t before.

“Watching everybody work together, it’s just been nice to see,” she said. “It’s not just parish to parish. It’s diocese wide.”

Chris Donnelly said the experience and the gifts working on the campaign brought only added to the theme of legacy.

“The campaign started a movement in the diocese to renew old relationships, which is the legacy, and it’s been renewed,” Chris Donnelly said. “That’s worth even more than the $50 million.

“We’ve loved every minute of it. It was just so exciting, and still is,” she added. “To see the bishop take over and bring the community together through this campaign, it’s been worth every amount of what we’ve done just to know we’re in great hands.”

Linville said there is a lot to reflect on since the campaign was first announced. 

“As I reflect back on the last three years, I think about all the people I’ve gotten to know who have been so generous and just the friendships made,” Linville said. “We’ve had very engaged pastors, a lot of generous donors who have reconnected with the diocese, and we’ve also had a lot of new donors be part of the campaign.

“Everybody has been excited to see what the future of the diocese could be. A lot of times, an endowment campaign isn’t overly exciting because you’re not building a building or something you can see,” he said. “But I think people have gotten excited because they know that this will help ensure the faith is around and strong for future generations.

“This campaign, it feels like it has brought the diocese together,” he concluded. “When I first started, that’s when a lot of the scandals were in the news, and it felt like there were a lot of people that were discouraged and rightly so. But over the last few years, there’s a much better sense of family, community and truly a legacy of faith, hope and love.”

For more information, visit dioceseofnashville.com/legacy.

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