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Seminar looks at new approaches to Catholic philanthropy

By Pilot Staff
Posted: 11/13/2009

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Boston College professor Paul G. Schervish speaks at a seminar on Catholic philanthropy held at the archdiocese’s Pastoral Center in Braintree Nov. 5. Pilot photo/ Courtesy George Martell, The Catholic Foundation

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese of Boston has hundreds of parishes, schools, charitable agencies and ministries, many of which have their own development personnel. For the first time in many years, Catholic fundraising professionals and board members from across the archdiocese gathered together to learn and discuss new approaches to working with the philanthropic community.

On Nov. 5, The Catholic Foundation hosted a workshop at the archdiocese’s Pastoral Center in Braintree.

According to Scot Landry, Archdiocesan Secretary for Institutional Advancement, “The workshop had two goals: First, we hoped to gather development professionals who work for various organizations into the same room to build friendships with each other so that we can work more effectively going forward. Second, we hoped the seminar would lead to deeper understandings of key issues that would make our efforts more fruitful as we strive to increase the funds available to advance the mission of the Church.”

Paul G. Schervish, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College, was the gathering’s guest speaker.

Schervish is best known as the author of a report which predicted that more than $41 trillion in wealth would be transferred between generations in the first half of this century. His recent activities include training fundraising and financial professionals in the use of a discernment methodology based on Ignatian principles for guiding wealth holders through a self-reflective process of decision-making about their finances and philanthropy, and analyzing what key religious and philosophical thinkers understand and teach about discerning the use of wealth for philanthropy.

He is also currently directing the Study on Wealth, Values, and Philanthropy funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which will survey 1,000 wealth holders with a net worth of at least $25 million.

According to Schervish, “Financial and social-psychological forces are shaping charitable giving by wealth holders, and making philanthropy more explicitly a collaborative relationship between donors and recipient organizations.”

Philanthropists want to care for the true needs of others, and development professionals can enable this with an approach that leads to discovery. Schervish recommended that development professionals discuss with possible contributors questions such as: “Is there anything you want to do? That is important to do as an act of care for others? That you can do better through philanthropy than through government or commerce? And that enables you to identify with the fate of others, express gratitude for blessings, and achieve deeper personal happiness for yourself and others at the same time?”

Following Schervish’s presentation, the development professionals in attendance were invited to interview each other utilizing this approach.

“The seminar was a great opportunity to come together with peers from the Catholic development community,” stated Patrick Gipson, Archdiocesan Manager of The Catholic Appeal. “Dr. Schervish used a combination of Ignatian spirituality, fundraising best practices, and an engaging sense of humor to remind us that, through our ministry, we are not simply acting upon our own vocational calling, but also helping our donors to discern their understanding of how Christ has called them to utilize their time, talent, and treasure in service of the Church.”

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visited the seminar to welcome Schervish and to greet all those in attendance. He commented that fundraising professionals follow in the footsteps of St. Paul, the Church’s first significant fundraiser, who was always taking up collections among the Gentiles to benefit the needy Christian community in Jerusalem. He thanked everyone in attendance for their work to raise the funds necessary to carry on the many ministries of the Church.

Future gatherings of the Catholic development professionals across the archdiocese are planned for 2010. More information about Dr. Schervish and Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, is available at