Halfway through a five-year marketing plan called “Awaken the Vision,” which lists “getting people to talk about the priesthood as a lively career choice,” among its goals, the vocations office of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and St. Francis Seminary have succeeded in getting the topic into the awareness of people in their city and in various other corners of the globe. The flashier aspects of their campaign include a series of billboards with slogans including, “Wanted: Doctor of Souls,” and “Work With the World’s Greatest Boss,” and a series of radio ads in a game-show format entitled “World’s Greatest Job,” with participants guessing unsuccessfully the career of the Harley-riding priest. Since the campaign began last November, the ads have been featured in articles in the Milwaukee Business Journal, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and several German newspapers as well as World News Tonight and National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”
“We have gotten calls from people saying, ‘I thought about the priesthood years ago: your messages have caused me to rethink,’” said Colleen Smith, the plan’s marketing director, who nevertheless said the billboards were intended more to put the idea of priestly vocation before the public in a positive light than as a direct recruitment effort. “At the beginning of our program, we did some focus groups and discovered that our challenge wasn’t so much a matter of people thinking negatively about the priesthood as just never thinking about it at all,” said Smith. The archdiocese already has a shortage of priests, and fifty more will retire by the turn of the century. “Awaken the Vision” hopes to replace them with new seminarians, but is also proactive in its attempts to boost the number of men considering priesthood in years ahead. The first two years of the plan focus on revitalizing the connections between parishes, the vocations office, and the seminary. This has involved considerable legwork by vocations director Robert Stiefvater, who has spent six to eight weeks at a time living in various corners of the archdiocese and meeting with priests, parish councils, and people connected with Catholic schools. Parish vocation teams have been formed or revitalized, and recently 128 people from vocations teams in thirty-seven parishes met for a workshop. The next phase of the program involves increased vocational awareness in schools and colleges: a new elementary school curriculum on vocations is part of this process. Then comes the more public portion of the plan, which is a bit ahead of schedule.
“Awaken the Vision” was funded with a $144,000 four-year grant from the archdiocese. Donations of time have been considerable, however, and difficult to quantify. Smith says of her part-time work on the project, “For me, it’s been a joy. As a lifelong Catholic, it’s nice for me to have the opportunity to take my skills and apply them to something I believe in.” Stiefvater notes that Smith has put in hours beyond what she has been paid for, as did the artist who designed the billboards. And the excellent locations in which the billboards have been placed—at minimal cost—have to do with the owner of the company, who was at a presentation by a seminarian at his parish a couple of years ago. “At that point,” said Stiefvater, “he was moved to do something, but didn’t. A year later, though, when another seminarian visited, he came through with a wonderful package.”
Just two years into the program, it’s too early to look at seminary numbers, but Joyce Duffy, assistant project director, is cheerful and coy. “We don’t want to talk about application numbers now, partly because we think we’ll want crow a little in the fall. Let’s just say that there seems to be a significant increase.”
The billboards are available for viewing and the radio spots for listening on the Web at www.sfs.edu, along with the newsletters the program prepares for potential candidates for priesthood and parish committees.
New Seminary Support
Two chairs were endowed at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, signaling the support of two noted Southern Baptist statesmen, Dr. Duke McCall and Dr. Kenneth L. Chafin, for the new Baptist venture in theological education. In October, McCall, 84, was honored for his forty years of denominational service, including thirty as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and five years as president of the Baptist World Alliance. During his tenure at SBTS, the school changed from a single focus to one of variety and diversity, setting the pattern for much of contemporary theological education. McCall was instrumental in founding the first seminary courses in evangelism and social work, and led the integration of Christian education, church music, social work, and pastoral care into the seminary curriculum.
The title Duke K. McCall Chair of Mission and World Christianity reflects McCall’s “personal commitment to missions and his perspective of always seeing the purpose of his work in a global context,” said Thomas H. Graves, president of BTSR. The endowment was established with a commitment of $250,000 from the McCall Foundation of Jupiter, Florida. Subsequently the V. V. Cooke Foundation added a $50,000 gift and the Gheens Foundation added another $50,000.
The Kenneth L. Chafin Chair of Preaching was also established with pledges of $250,000 from friends in Houston, Texas, and Louisville, Kentucky. Chafin was a popular pastor who taught evangelism and preaching at Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Texas and at SBTS and later chaired the board of trustees at Southwestern. He was also dean of the Billy Graham Association’s schools of evangelism and convened the first Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974.
Lyons Found Guilty
The Reverend Henry J. Lyons, president of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Inc., the nation’s largest black religious organization, was convicted on February 27 of racketeering and grand theft in Pinellas County Circuit Court, in Largo, Florida. He was charged with stealing money that was donated to rebuild black churches destroyed by fire and with taking advantage of the convention’s good name to sell false membership lists to companies wanting to do business with black customers. He could be sentenced to five to eight and a half years in prison. The millions he acquired were used for luxury cars, expensive jewelry, a $700,000 waterfront home, and a time-share condominium in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, among other things. His aide, Bernice Edwards, was acquitted.
The hundred-year-old National Baptist Convention has a membership of about one million people, but Lyons put it at 8.5 million. In some states membership in the convention was listed at a higher number than there were black residents.
Lyons and Edwards are scheduled to stand trial in April in federal court on fifty-four counts of tax evasion, extortion, and money laundering. Lyons resigned his position in March.
Changes at the Top
R. Kevin LaGree, for eight years dean and professor of divinity at Candler School of Theology of Emory University, has announced his resignation as of June 30 of this year. LaGree, a board member of In Trust, will become the twenty-first president of Simpson College, in Indianola, Iowa. Affiliated with The United Methodist Church, the private liberal-arts college has 1,400 full-time and 650 part-time students and a faculty of more than eighty.
Glenn R. Bucher, president of the Graduate Theological Union, has announced his resignation as of June 30. He was GTU’s fifth president. He will become executive director of The Boyer Center at Messiah College, in Grantham, Pennsylvania, a national education center for identifying critical issues in school and society (elementary to graduate level), providing research, and addressing those issues from the perspectives of learning, public policy, citizenship, and service.
The Reverend Dr. Joseph C. Hough, Jr. has been elected Union Theological Seminary’s fifteenth president. He has also been appointed William E. Dodge Professor of Social Ethics. An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, Hough is currently dean and professor of ethics at the Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee, and director of the Cal Turner Program in Moral Leadership—a program for the divinity, law, medical, and business schools of Vanderbilt. He officially begins his duties on around July 1, 1999, succeeding New Testament scholar Holland L. Hendrix, who was Union’s president from 1991 to 1998.
Hough has asked the Reverend Mary E. McNamara, Union’s interim president for the current academic year, to serve as executive vice president. She has been president and executive director of the Interchurch Center in New York City since 1990 and a member of Union’s board of directors since 1996.
The Reverend David Neelands has been appointed director of the Toronto School of Theology for a two-year term, beginning July 1999. Currently he is assistant vice-president for student affairs at the University of Toronto. Neelands, 55, is an Anglican priest and has taught in the philosophy department at the university.
TST is the administrative body for seven affiliated theological colleges, including Emmanuel (United Church of Canada), Knox (Presbyterian), Regis (Roman Catholic, Jesuit), St Michael’s (Roman Catholic, Basilian), St. Augustine’s (Roman Catholic, Diocesan), Trinity (Anglican), and Wycliffe (Anglican). Degrees are jointly granted by the colleges and the U of T, with which TST is associated.
Neelands takes over from the Reverend Jean-Marc Laporte, who will return to a teaching position at Regis College after a sabbatical year.
Monsignor Thomas J. Olmsted, currently rector/president of the Ponitifical College Josephinum, has been named coadjutor bishop of Wichita, Kansas. He will be installed on April 20. Olmsted is the twelfth rector of the 111-year old college, and has served for three years. The Reverend Brian Moore, a priest of the diocese of Dodge City and an alumnus of the seminary, has been named interim rector/president. Moore is currently academic dean and associate professor of New Testament in the Josephinum School of Theology.
The board of trustees of Iliff School of Theology, in Denver, Colorado, announced that a new contract had been awarded to Donald E. Messer, the seminary’s president, who has already served seventeen years. Messer will not continue as president beyond August 31, 2001.
The Reverend Dr. Lee M. McDonald has been appointed the principal of Acadia Divinity College and the dean of the faculty of theology in Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. He will assume his duties in July 1999. Currently at First Baptist Church of Alhambra, California, McDonald has been an adjunct faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary for nearly twenty years
Dr. Bill Flatt, dean of Harding University Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tennessee, announced his resignation at the end of the current school year. He will continue teaching on a part-time basis and retain the title of professor of counseling.
Oscar Cullman, Protestant theologian, New Testament scholar, and an ecumenical pioneer, died in Chamonix, France, in January at the age of 96. Cullman taught at the University of Basle from 1938 to 1972. He believed that every Christian confession is a spiritual gift that should not be homogenized. An official observer at the Second Vatican Council, he and others proposed the establishment of an international and intercultural institute at which Christian scholars and teachers could experience a community life of prayer, study, and dialogue. The idea was realized in the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem. In 1993 Cullman was the first Protestant to receive the Prix International Paul VI from the Paul VI Institute.