By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Jeremy Lillig, formerly the Director of the Bright Futures Fund, accepted a new position within the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph last month. He now serves as the Director of Stewardship and Development, charged with re-visioning fundraising in the Diocese. Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. also named Lillig to the Bishop’s Cabinet, his advisory council, along with Deacon Dan Powers, CEO of Catholic Charities, and Carrie Cooper, Director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection.
Lillig sees the office of Stewardship and Development as a resource for parish fundraising efforts. He agrees with Bishop Johnston that diocesan fundraising should be unified. Lillig said, “The bishop says that instead of many trains running parallel on many tracks, diocesan fundraising should be one train with many cars on the same track.” In other words, he added, a collaborative effort coming from inspiration not obligation.
In order to pull the parish fundraising trains together, Lillig hopes to “inspire people to support the diocese again. To support its ministries and causes again. We need to reestablish the culture in people to believe in something greater than themselves.” That means better communication with and acknowledgment of donors, and better transparency with them. One way to do this is to reestablish and enhance parish development director training, he said. That will aid instilling confidence in all concerned.
Lillig expressed gratitude that Bishop Johnston showed his confidence in selecting Lillig as the new director of Stewardship and Development, in part because of his non-traditional background. “My degree is in Theater, from Avila,” he said, “and I was mentored for three years by Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Olive Louise Dallavis.” Sister Olive Louise served as president of Avila from 1962-85, and in its Development Office for two more decades. “I’m also very young to be in this role; I’m only 34. I’m excited to bring generational experience to this position, excited to work on genuine-ness with donors, letting them feel sure they are giving money to the diocese, not to me.”
He wants his time in this position to be spent as an instrument to bring about change – a collaborative resource, working together with parishes and donors to strengthen the diocese. Lillig sees vocations and charity as two priorities of his office. He plans to create a team of fundraising managers, including the Bright Futures Fund’s new director Rebecca Quinlan and a new Bishop’s Appeal director.
He sees three major components necessary for change:
• Listening, hearing ideas and struggles of parishes and families
• Collaborating with others to fix problems and challenges
• Re-visioning the future and implementing new fundraising ideas to achieve that future.
“It won’t be easy,” Lillig said. “But, I don’t back down from challenges. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it! It may take some hard decisions, but my goal is to bring back the value and spirit of this diocese through transparency, confidence and sacrificial giving. I’m glad Bishop Johnston acknowledges the importance of fundraising.”
Lillig’s ancestors, immigrants to this country, gave to their church what they could. “It’s like they said, ‘This little gift I give, even though at great sacrifice to myself, is going to something that will be here for decades to come.’ That’s a legacy I don’t want to let go of.”
Looking to the near future, Lillig said, “I’m excited to be part of this challenge. Like Dorothy Day said, ‘The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us.’ We need to start that kind of a revolution here in this diocese.”