Ellisville parish steps up to the challenge to exceed Beyond Sunday goal

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On a recent Sunday morning, Msgr. Kevin Callahan greeted parishioners after Mass at St. Clare of Assisi Church in Ellisville.

For about an half-hour, he stood by a door in the vestibule, sharing laughs and smiles, handshakes and hugs, or all of the above, as the congregation filed out of church. It was akin to a reception line at a wedding, in which relatives and friends line up and await turns with the bride and groom.

With a difference, though: A reception line is a one-time occurrence; the recent scene at St. Clare routinely occurs after weekend Masses or Holy Day Masses.

Whether Msgr. Callahan celebrates Mass, assists with Communion, or has no role whatsoever, the scene is the same; parishioners patiently wait in line to visit with Msgr. Callahan.

This affinity for the pastor and Msgr. Callahan's personal touch have played out in the parish's "Beyond Sunday" campaign. Following the lead of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Coffman, St. Clare was the second parish in the Archdiocese of St. Louis to meet its campaign goal. And similar to St. Catherine, but on a larger scale, St. Clare exceeded its figure.

As of Dec. 11, parishioners had pledged almost $2.3 million, according to Msgr. Callahan. That's about $400,000 more than the parish's goal of $1,935,000, which was spelled out in the parish campaign literature. The final total might be more; the campaign still is winding down in the final days of 2015.

The parish's generous nature and the spirit of the beONE vision shined through in the Beyond Sunday campaign.

"It's just remarkable how generous the people are," Msgr. Callahan said. "They pray about it and reflect on it. They're really generous; it's a very generous parish."

That has been evident over the years. Even though the parish hasn't had a capital campaign since 1997, according to Msgr. Callahan, parishioners have been generous in what he called "piecemeal" projects, such as replacing the parking lot. But the parish has met others' needs as well, supplying financial assistance to aid missionary work. Parishioners also gave generously to the "Faith in the Future" capital campaign for Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, eclipsing St. Clare's goal as well, according to Msgr. Callahan.

"When they see a need, they open their pocketbook," said parishioner Dan Lally, head of St. Clare's Beyond campaign.

Lally was the ideal pick to lead the campaign, not only running the parish's "Faith in the Future" campaign but serving as Exhibition A in regard to Catholic education -- the main focus of Beyond Sunday. The Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri, which is administering the campaign, intends to put 60 percent of a parish's pledges into its Education Fund, to help finance tuition assistance and grants for innovative schools or programs.

Lally received the hat trick of Catholic education -- grade school at Little Flower, high school at St. Louis University High and college at St. Louis University. The lone exception was master's work at Washington University. He and wife Laura have five children, four educated via Catholic high schools with the other attending next year.

Like people throughout the archdiocese who have pledged to the campaign, St. Clare parishioners understood the concept of beONE, knowing that the majority of their pledges would help students and families elsewhere.

"I think, fundamentally, parishioners are understanding toward Catholic education," Lally said.

Education also played a role in the 40 percent of pledges that will be returned to the parish as part of the campaign. According to the "Our Plan" section of the parish's "Campaign Case for Support," some of those funds will be used to upgrade, repair or replace school facilities and to fund education programs, in addition to other parish projects. In the section about investing in the parish, the support literature specifies "Refurbishing Gymnasium/Dollard Hall ($200,000), financial assistance for various education programs "by forming a parish endowment for education" ($177,000), repair/replace roofing in school buildings and the church ($208,000) and updates to various parish facilities ($189,000).

With a parish of 2,066 families the campaign has a huge undertaking, and Lally praised volunteers -- 65, in all -- who helped in the campaign, whether making countless phone calls, doing mailings or helping with receptions.

For Msgr. Callahan, visiting parish families in their home was among the campaign highlights

"It's nice to spend quality time with them and learn about their families," he said.

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