President's Page - November 2016

If you missed our annual meeting last Friday evening here are some excerpts from our Annual Report. This message was written to be given orally, as a speech, and so it will help if you read it while thinking about it being spoken.

Bigger, Better, Stronger – Friends, Funds, and Fresh Faces – Catholic Schools are the Best Way to Strengthen Our Church

18 Where there is no vision, the people perish – That’s right out of the Bible, Proverbs 29: 18 As Catholics we aren’t accustomed to quoting scripture, but that might not be a bad verse to commit to memory. Where there is no vision, the people perish…

When Laurie and I were much younger and we had only four or five children we decided it was time to take a vacation. An authentic Minnesota vacation; destination: Yellowstone – by way of South Dakotah, of course! Pipestone, Corn Palace, Chamberlain, Badlands, Wall Drug, Black Hills… you’ve all done it. The first night on the road we stayed at a sketchy Hotel #6 in Spearfish. It had been a terrible, awful day with one or more of the kids crying and screaming the entire 550 miles. As evening arrived we said to each other, “Let’s take a twilight drive down Spearfish Canyon to Bridal Falls; that’ll be fun and maybe the kids will settle down.” Brilliant. To this day we’ve never seen Bridal Falls. As darkness descended, back at the hotel we all somehow fell asleep – convinced this vacation wasn’t going to work. We’d get up in the morning and head back home rather than spending another painful moment on the road. Morning came, we loaded the old station wagon, got the kids in their seats, probably found a cup of coffee somewhere, and we drove to the ramp of the Road #90 that would take us West toward the Big Horns and Yellowstone – or East back the way we had come the day before. To this day I think I’m being honest with myself, we didn’t know which way we would turn. For some reason, for those few moments in the early dawn of that summer day, the kids were happy, or at least quiet, and we turned right – west – toward Yellowstone… and with apologies to Bob Frost, that has made all the difference.

The best way to strengthen our Church is to strengthen our Catholic schools.

Bishop Donald has been leading our Diocese and our schools for three years. His top priority is Catholic schools. We applaud his goal of strengthening our schools. We share his vision that with stronger schools our Church will experience a resurgence in membership, participation, and financial support.

In an era of intense competition for scarce parish resources some might find Bishop Donald’s words surprising. But look no further than the Baltimore Council of 1884 wherein the 13th final decree of the Bishops of the United States back then was, “Bishops are exhorted to have a Catholic school in every parish and the teachers should be paid from the parochial funds.”

I don’t know if this decree was subsequently overturned, revised, or simply no longer followed or promulgated, but the Bishops back then were right on target.

Even if there isn’t an active Decree #13, it makes both logical and intuitive sense to strengthen our schools if we want to strengthen our Church. Does someone have a better plan? Bigger, better, stronger – friends, funds, and fresh faces ought to be our strategic vision. At a recent meeting with a few of us in the room, Bishop Donald said, “I want it done!” – meaning the strengthening of our schools through the E-12 Catholic Community Schools structure.

The unexamined life is not worth living said Socrates and a host of others after him. Each of us should daily ask – and organizations should ask – am I moving the world in a good direction or am I just watching the world move – or wondering how it moves – or, worse yet, am I moving the world in a bad direction?

Cathedral – your school – now a part of Catholic Community Schools – is in good shape. Our enrollment has stabilized over the last five or six years, though we are working like the dickens to try and get it to grow. Completing goals #8 and #9 would help lots. So would filling each of the elementary schools to capacity. We are operating in the black as we have been for several years. We have a balanced budget for the current year and we’ll have one for next year; we’re committed to that. Our program has improved in more than thirty specific and measurable ways over the last several years. Our programs are good because our people are good. Our programs are good because we put relationships first and the students are the beneficiaries. I love it when a prospective family exclaims, “Oh, I didn’t realize you had engineering, or welding, or Chinese language, or orchestra, or American Sign Language, or archery, or post-secondary enrollment option, or travel learning to Tanzania, Rome, Germany, Colombia, Spain, or 26 different sports, or advanced placement classes, or students from eleven different countries – or close to 100% matriculation to post-secondary experiences, or year after year, on average, a dozen or more appearances in State of Minnesota tournaments. This is the norm for us; most schools hope for just one once in a while. During the year just ended we raised more than $2,000,000 in cash – counting all categories of fund raising.

All of this happens because of the effective leadership of our senior staff: Kathi Sauerer, Laurie Keene, Darrell Armbrust, Matt Meyer, and Lynn Grewing. Thank you! Thank you!

Among the ways to make our Catholic schools bigger, better, and stronger is to complete both phases one and two of The Campaign for Cathedral – its students, its faculty, its facilities – its future. In this case the future refers to our E-6 programs. We are more than halfway to our phase one goal. Let’s bring this campaign to victory.

We can’t hope to attract families to our schools who will thereby strengthen our Church if we can only offer 1938-era science labs, a worship space that doubles as an always-scheduled gymnasium, dark and damp basement space for music and the arts, and a complete lack of flexible space for 21st century learning. Sure, we can make do like we have for decades, but for how much longer? I don’t want to know that answer, do you? It might be different if we were stuck in the middle of a Northern Wisconsin swamp with our nearest neighbor 50 miles away, but we’re smack-dab in the middle of about twenty other schools, most perceived to be good or very good, and each of those is free of charge.

Throughout the last year we have focused on six-figure and seven-figure leadership gifts with a goal of getting as close to $16,500,000 as possible by right now. We have been as aggressive as reasonably allowable while always faithful to the belief and the value of the relationship being more important than the money. At the writing of this interim report we have conducted 148 confidential one-on-one, sit-down visits – and we have received certified commitments of $9,203,000. In the last few days the Campaign has been opened to, as we like to say, the other 49,800 members of the Cathedral community.

The five largest gifts received to-date have been for $1,000,000 with dozens of smaller ones. We have asked for larger amounts ($3,000,000 - $5,000,000) and we remain hopeful one or more of those bigger requests might still yield a yes. So far, no news is maybegood news. More than twenty-five (25) of our sit-down, face-to-face visits, wherein we asked for a specific gift of $100,000+, have not yet resulted in an answer. If each of those is a yes... we’ll be closer.

The most difficult part of any fund raising effort is getting face-to-face appointments with the right people at the right time that lead to meaningful conversations and ultimately to gifts. We still have hundreds of people (couples/ organizations) on our list with whom we want to visit, but getting the appointments requires extraordinary patience and persistence along parallel paths. We have fifty-two visits to finish before reaching our goal of 200; we will get that job done, and soon.

This is your cordial invitation to get involved. If you’re sitting in this room and you’re not involved I’ll tell you the awful truth… we won’t succeed. If for some reason you can’t or don’t want to make a sacrificial gift, then get someone to be your proxy. Get someone else involved if you can’t get involved yourself. We still need a little bit more than $7,300,000; if you can give it all, please give it all… and if you can only give some of it, give some of it.

When I was a lad on the farm us kids would occasionally get to ride to town to help take the milk to the creamery. Sometimes four, five, or six of us would cram into the tiny two-passenger cab of my Dad’s 1947 Dodge pickup. After taking the eggs to the egg man and the milk to the creamery – and sometimes getting to stick our heads into that big butter churn to smell that delicious delicacy – we would stop at the local general store. My Dad rarely had money; the store owner would add the groceries to a long handwritten ledger he kept under the counter. I never thought much about it until later in life; that running tab must have caused my parents lots of anxiety. One day I remember asking the store owner, “Why can’t you just give us stuff for free?!” Incredulous, impertinent, but through the eyes of a child. He looked at me and said, “I have to make money from my friends because my enemies don’t come in here.”

To paraphrase one of our distinguished alums, Scott Warzecha ‘79, it’s our turn now to transform our campus facilities into spaces that encourage, enhance, and champion learning. It’s our turn to fund the improvements our campus needs in order to compete with the twenty good schools surrounding us that are all free-of-charge. It’s our turn now to make sure Catholic education in this area not only survives, but thrives. It’s our turn now to provide what our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents provided for us.

Good facilities do not guarantee a good school, but an excellent school – your school – will become an even better school when top-notch learning occurs because of facilities rather than in spite of them.

Cathedral is too precious an asset to leave to chance. Let’s not leave it to chance. Let’s pursue our vision of being unmatched. Let’s complete this campaign, start building, and start strengthening. It’s our turn now!

18 Where there is no vision, the people perish… Ladies and gentlemen, let’s turn right, toward Yellowstone, and have it make all the difference.

When Pope (Saint) John XXIII; i.e., Angelo Roncalli, was told by Vatican officials that it would be absolutely impossible to open the Second Vatican Council by 1963, he responded, “Fine, then we’ll open it in 1962,” and he did. Let’s dedicate, bless, and open our new campus facility before 2018 comes to an end.

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