The Church of Holy Cross-Immaculata in Cincinnati, OH, was one of the first parishs to participate in New Dollars/New Partners for Your Sacred Place training, in 2003. Five years later the parish has successfully raised funds for several projects and is celebrating its sesquicentennial anniversary.
The cornerstone for the Church of the Immaculate Conception, now Holy Cross-Immaculata, was laid in August 1859 in Cincinnati’s Mount Adams neighborhood. Sixteen months later, in December 1860, the completed church was dedicated with a High Mass. The parish was renamed Holy Cross-Immaculata when the Church of the Immaculate Conception and the smaller Holy Cross Catholic parish merged in 1970.
Since its 1860 dedication the church has had a positive impact on the community immediately surrounding it. The establishment of a soup kitchen and monthly food, clothing, and toiletries collections are just some of the programs the parish uses to help those in Cincinnati neighborhoods. The church has a strong religious tradition in the community as well, including a Holy Week pilgrimage that leads worshippers uphill to the church and then up the 90 steps leading to the church doors. The ritual has become so well known that thousands of pilgrims from across the country and around the world come to participate.
In 2003 the Church of Holy Cross-Immaculata (HCI) began having major structural problems with the roof, with an estimated repair cost of $500,000. The leaders of the parish knew that it was not possible for all of the funds to come from the parish and turned to Partners for Sacred Places’ New Dollars/New Partners training program for guidance.
New Dollars/New Partners provided a wealth of information to the clergy and lay leaders: from grant availability, to the importance of telling the parish’s history, to the benefit of creating relationships with community organizations and businesses. Bill Frantz, Pastoral Administrator for HCI, explains, “The New Dollars/New Partners program helped us realize that if we want to keep our church viable, we need to connect with others outside of the parish.” Although the neighborhood had always felt the presence of the parish, it was time for the greater Cincinnati area to learn how the church contributed to the city’s history and spiritual well being.
Newsletters, an active and frequently updated website, press releases, and interviews with the press all contributed to the church’s increased profile citywide. As New Dollars/New Partners training teaches, once the larger community is reached, people see the church more as a community asset than a place of worship. And of course, a larger audience will ultimately help raise more money. By following these principles, the parish’s fundraising efforts were successful and the roof repair was completed.
New Dollars/New Partners training also taught the parish’s leaders that a reactive approach to building care was not appropriate for their 100-year-old structure; proactive monitoring and maintenance would help catch problems while they were small rather than allowing them to develop into large and costly issues. One such step was the establishment of a building-and-grounds committee, which created a repair schedule for all buildings on the property.
Encouraged by their success, the parish began searching for more grants to help them focus on both current and future needs. One grant allowed the parish to fund a building assessment, which informed their long-term maintenance plan. A second grant rescued a stained glass window from another church that was about to be demolished, and installed it at HCI, where a stained glass window had been missing since the 1940s. These grant writing and fundraising experiences gave the church leaders the foundation needed to fund their next unanticipated project: the repairing of the church’s three bells.
A routine examination by the Verdin Company, a Cincinnati-based caster and restorer of bells, found that the bells’ hardware had severely deteriorated to the point that it was unsafe to ring the bells and they had to be silenced immediately. The ring of the bells was an expected and welcome daily occurrence in the neighborhood; the silence was quickly noticed. The parish and surrounding community began searching for ways to fund the bell restoration. The religious and lay leaders of the church used their past fundraising experience along with the lessons from the New Dollars/New Partners training to generate several creative and successful fundraising ideas.
In addition to grant writing, Holy Cross-Immaculata leaders created new partnerships with area businesses. A local restaurant threw a Saint Patrick’s Day party and donated half the proceeds to the bell restoration fund. A Cincinnati business guild held a neighborhood sidewalk sale and the parish received the table rent income. The leaders of the church also embraced Internet fundraising, recognizing it as a way to reach donors far beyond Cincinnati, and were thrilled to receive contributions to the restoration fund from across the country.
The Verdin Company assisted the parish by creating an educational brochure about the bell restoration process. President Jim Verdin encourages such informational material as it spurs community involvement, generates enthusiasm, and ultimately results in donations. Money for the bells’ restoration was raised in about three months as a result of this flurry of fundraising. An estimated 75% of the funding came from those who were not members of the parish. The parish was actually able to raise more money than was necessary for restoration and, following the guidance of the New Dollars/ New Partners training, has created a fund for ongoing bell maintenance.
New Dollars/New Partners training taught Holy Cross-Immaculata to look for the resources that both their parish and the surrounding community provide. “Because of [New Dollars/New Partners] we have made other partners and gotten our name out there. We don’t have to keep going back to the same well of resources for funding,” says Bill Frantz. Most importantly, the parish has learned to depend on itself as a powerful asset. “We have learned from these fundraising experiences to keep our eyes open to the gifts and talents of the parishioners,” Frantz continues. “We have a great parish full of good-hearted people who want to help the community.” It is their passion for church and community that has kept the parish of Holy Cross-Immaculata a landmark in the neighborhood for over 100 years.