July 20, 2012

Campaign enables St. Clair County parish to eliminate debt, strengthen Catholic education

The Changing Lives Together campaign leadership team at St. Edward. About 50 volunteers were involved in the parish campaign.

Last year at this time, the pastor and parish volunteers at St. Edward on the Lake were organizing their Changing Lives Together campaign. Today, the Lakeport parish debt has been retired, and St. Edward on the Lake Elementary School is receiving a new roof and windows to replace the leaky and drafty originals from when the building was constructed in 1959. More than 200 households at St. Edward have pledged over $415,000 in a campaign rapidly fulfilling commitments made to the Catholic worship community located about 10 miles north of Port Huron.

An artist’s rendering of the new pitched roof and energy-efficient windows now being installed at St. Edward School. The work will be completed when classes begin this fall. At lower left is a display of the Ten Commandments at the school entrance.

“This was the most well-planned fundraising effort in which we’ve ever participated, and we’ve participated in quite a few,” said Paula McCarthy, St. Edward’s Director of Religious Education and a campaign volunteer. “It was an inspiring, prayerful, and wonderful experience.” Paula’s husband, Gerry, chaired the parish campaign with the pastoral leadership of Rev. Joseph Esper, former pastor of St. Edward, who was recently assigned as pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish further south in Ira Township near Anchor Bay.

The Ten Commandments have a prominent place at the entrance to St. Edward Elementary School.

The parish priorities and goals were straightforward – pay off the parish debt, and invest in the parish school. “Like everyone else in the Archdiocese of Detroit, the economy hit the Lakeport area hard, and our school enrollment went down as a result,” said Gerry. “We decided to increase our commitment to Catholic education by making some long overdue improvements to the school, and to make tuition more affordable,” he continued. “Without children in a parish, you’ll just wither on the vine,” Gerry said. “We want our young families to be able to provide a Catholic primary school education for their children. They’re the future of our parish and our faith.”

Parishioners at St. Edward started an endowment fund 20 years ago to generate annual investment revenue for tuition assistance, an archdiocesan-wide priority in the Changing Lives Together initiative. Archbishop Vigneron intends to bolster parish and school-based tuition assistance efforts with an additional $15 million through Changing Lives Together to be placed into that part of the archdiocesan endowment fund which has generated nearly $36 million in tuition grants to Catholic primary and secondary school students since 1994. Archdiocesan tuition assistance can be combined with local parish or school assistance for qualifying families. St. Edward’s is also setting funds aside to acquire a new school bus to replace the present vehicle that has logged many miles over several years transporting pre-K through 5th grade students over rural roads.

Rev. Joe Esper, former pastor of St. Edward Parish in Lakeport, greets parish children trick-or-treating at the parish rectory on Halloween.

Parishioner involvement in Changing Lives Together at St. Edward was based on campaign leaders being specific about there the funds would go, including on the archdiocesan level. “The Archbishop helped our cause by being very precise about money being allocated to tuition assistance, priestly formation, support for the training of lay leaders, and helping Church ministries in Detroit,” Gerry said. “That made it much easier for people to get on board.”

St. Edward also recently reached its annual Catholic Services Appeal goal of about $46,000. “The depth of generosity at St. Edward is really remarkable,” Gerry said. Paula and Gerry McCarty have been parishioners at St. Edward for 35 years.

Updated July 2012

Changing Lives Together is a series of parish campaigns to generate resources to fulfill parish-developed plans and priorities. Learn more about the initiative in your parish.