The Diocese of Lincoln's capital campaign has raised $62.5 million since early 2014 to help fund Catholic schools and parish projects, educate seminarians, support retired priests, and evangelize – nearly $10 million over its goal.

"This speaks to the faith and missionary spirit of the Catholics in our diocese – no matter the amount pledged, I know that Catholics have made sacrifices to support the mission of the Church," Bishop James Conley said Dec. 17.

Bishop Conley said he was "deeply grateful" to God for the Joy of the Gospel campaign. It far exceeded its initial goal of $53 million.

"I hope that we can build on the success of this campaign, most especially by continuing to grow in faith and holiness."

The bishop said it was most gratifying to see so many families contribute. More than 11,000 households, about 45 percent of Catholic households in the diocese, pledged a five-year gift.

Peter Hoskow, managing director of fundraising consultant Community Counseling Service, said the campaign was "among the most successful diocesan efforts" in U.S. Catholicism. Typical diocesan campaign participation is 20 to 25 percent. The average pledge amount was over $6,800, the highest average gift the consultant service had seen in its decades of operation.

The diocese's 32 Catholic elementary and high schools will receive the largest portion of funds. Diocese spokesman J.D. Flynn said other funds will provide school grants for new programs, personnel needs, and "innovative approaches to Catholic education."

St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, 25 miles west of Lincoln, will use some of the funds to expand and to defray the costs of tuition. The diocese's minor seminary is presently at maximum capacity.

More than $10 million from the campaign will fund parish needs such as roofing projects, disability access, remodeling churches and parish halls, and programs of faith formation and evangelization.

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The campaign's support for diocesan pastoral outreach and evangelization will back a new pastoral plan, a staff director for Hispanic ministry, expanded prison ministry, online resources, and outreach to divorced Catholics.

"Pope Francis reminds us constantly to remember people on the margins," Bishop Conley said.  "We need the Joy of the Gospel to reach people the Church might not otherwise impact."

The campaign will also provide seed capital for the Newman Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, an accredited educational effort for university students.

The bishop credited the drive's success to the generosity of the laity and the hard work of diocese's clergy, staff, and volunteers. He also credited the Virgin Mary, "the patroness of our diocese, who prays for the success of our ministry."

Almost $1 million in pledges to the diocese came from 145 priests. Bishop Conley personally raised over $16.8 million in pledges.

About 86 percent of parishes met their fundraising goals. Six parishes joined diocesan needs and larger parish projects in "combined campaigns" that raised another $11 million not included in the diocesan total.

The bishop said the diocese is still working towards a sustainable financial model for ordinary operations.

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"We have to continue to be good stewards, and to be supportive of the Church's work," he said. "But the campaign reminds us how many Catholics are willing to give generously to our mission."