Kristen L. Byrd, Special to The Catholic Virginian

The windows of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Richmond, allow light to pour into the building’s gathering spaces and offices. Until recently, this was not the case. The building was dark, the social areas small, the rooms inadequate. That changed with the parish’s participation in the Diocese of Richmond’s Living Our Mission campaign. 

Begun in 2014 by Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo’s Living Our Mission sought to raise $65 million over five years in support of multiple ministries. It partnered with churches throughout the diocese in an effort to identify diocesan and parish-specific needs and devise a way to address them. To date, more than $102 million has been raised, with nearly $63 million going to parishes and nearly $40 million to the diocese.

Living Our Mission was overseen by professional fundraisers who advised parishes on setting reasonable goals based on their annual income and what they wanted to accomplish. Once a parish reached its goal, it received two-thirds of additional funds raised with the other one-third going to the diocese. It was an enormous undertaking, but it proved successful. 

Excellent participation

The St. Joseph campaign goal was $312,000; it raised more than $350,000. 

“We were encouraged that 60 percent of the parishioners contributed to the campaign – a percentage near the top in the whole diocese,” said St. Joseph pastor Father Robert Novokowsky, a priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. 

St. Joseph is a unique parish in many ways: it is growing in size; it is one of only two parishes in the diocese that specializes in offering the traditional Latin Mass, i.e., the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite; and it is dedicated to the ancient traditions of the Church with an emphasis on confession, adoration and the rosary. 

Father Novokowsky was attracted to the traditional Latin Mass’s richness and depth. 

“I slowly became convinced that these ancient rites belonged in the modern world exactly because they were born of centuries of development,” he said. “They did not belong to any particular century, or any particular place – despite being Roman – therefore they belonged to ours as well. They were timeless.”

Father Novokowsky, who has been at St. Joseph since 2011, explained that the parish is also a “non-territorial parish, which means our parish is defined not by geography as most parishes are, but rather, we are defined by our liturgy. All those who are attached to this liturgy become members of our parish (regardless of their location),” he said. The parish has approximately 350 families. 

Approach to people ‘paid off’

In addition to allowing parishes to decide how their funds would be allocated, Living Our Mission also let parishes choose how to approach parishioners in their fundraising efforts. 

“Our chosen method was to host many small-group meetings instead of one or two large ones,” Father Novokowsky said. “This seemed to have paid off. This afforded the added benefit of meeting and chatting with folks in a casual atmosphere.” 

The priest explained that his parish, like many others, chose to focus on structural improvement. The expanding St. Joseph Parish family meant existing spaces were lacking and limiting. The renovation, which took place from September 2016 to January 2017, was vital because social gatherings were essential in fostering a sense of community, according to Father Novokowsky. 

The new social hall, which is large enough to host wedding receptions and larger parish events, is also an homage to founding pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Benedictine Father Adrian Harmening. 

“Father Harmening had been asked by Bishop (Walter F.) Sullivan to shepherd a new Latin Mass community in 1991. This was a national first. Twenty years later, Father Adrian retired, leaving behind him a well-established parish. He laid its foundation, oversaw its growth, managed its relocation, and became its founding pastor in 2002. … The new hall was dedicated to his name.”

Beauty a priority  

In addition to the improved social hall, a library, gift shop, change rooms and offices were added. 

“One of the priorities of our renovation was beauty,” said Father Novokowsky, “Sometimes beauty is thought of as extravagance but this is not essential. A necessary component of architectural beauty is proportion.”  

With this in mind, rooms were redesigned, shelves and windows added, and proportions altered to get the desired effect. When asked why windows were so essential to the renovation, Father Novokowsky said, “God said, ‘Let there be light!’ Catholic Church architecture is a history of trying to get more light into the worship space. We are reminded of this in the recent news about Notre Dame in Paris, whose famous flying buttresses were for the sake of, in part, bigger windows. The beauty of them definitely points to the superior beauty of heaven to which we aspire.”

Living Our Mission helped St. Joseph raise money for its own needs; in turn St. Joseph helped raise money for the diocese to carry out its work. St. Joseph is one parish whose efforts created a ripple effect; there are dozens more. 

In the 2016 annual report about Living Our Mission, Bishop DiLorenzo wrote in a letter of gratitude, “More children and young people are becoming actively engaged in the Church; more people are discerning their call to priesthood, permanent diaconate and religious life; more families are better able to afford to send their children to Catholic Schools; and more people are getting vital assistance for basic human necessities. Because of the success of the Living Our Mission campaign, I can say with certainty that this growth will continue and our Church will continue to thrive well into the future.” 

Editor’s note: To learn more about the Living Our Mission campaign, visit www.livingourmission.org. To learn more about St. Joseph Parish, www.visit stjosephrichmond.org.


Outreach supported by Living Our Mission

The money raised through the Living Our Mission campaign was divided between the parishes and the diocese, with one-third of the funds going directly to parishes. The other two-thirds was allocated to diocesan priorities under three categories:

Developing Our Future Church. Support for evangelization, youth and young adult outreach, campus ministry and the McMahon-Parater Foundation Scholarship Endowment. 

Supporting Our Clergy. Provided education/formation of seminarians, advanced education for clergy in areas such as liturgy and Canon Law and funding for priests’ pensions and health care. 

Advancing Our Shared Mission. Funding for distance learning and ministry training sites, an emergency parish capital needs grant fund, diocesan capital fund, social ministry outreach and mission parish endowment.