The Archdiocese of San Antonio announced a $60 million capital campaign Tuesday to help meet the spiritual needs of a growing population by renovating Catholic schools, establishing 10 new parishes, increasing outreach projects through Catholic Charities, and building a pilgrimage center behind Mission Concepción.
“It’s ambitious and we haven’t done something like this in 60 years, but it’s to give hope to new generations,” Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller said after announcing the campaign at San Fernando Cathedral. “San Antonio is growing at an incredibly rapid rate and in some years we’ll have 1 million more residents.”
Thirty percent of the campaign’s goal – $18 million – already has been raised for the “On the Way – ¡Ándale!” campaign since its silent kickoff, García-Siller said, and the archdiocese hopes to reach its total goal in two years.
“The campaign is now in its public phase, and we hope that everyone feels a part of this effort, no matter if its a dollar or a thousand dollars,” he said. “Whatever we’re going to do with this money belongs to everyone.”
The archdiocese serves 2.6 million people in 19 counties in South Central Texas, said Julie Seguin, director of the Archdiocese office of development. The archdiocese projects that 250,000 additional Catholics will move to the area in the next 10 years. The projection is based on the premise that the percentage of Catholics holds steady as the population grows, Seguin said.
The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) reports that 28.4% of San Antonio’s population was Catholic in 2010. City-Data, which provides Bexar County estimates on religious populations, places the percentage of Catholics in the county slightly higher, at 30.8% in 2010, an 8% decrease from 2000. Pew Research Center’s more recent Religious Landscape Study, reports that 72% of all Catholics in Texas are Latino.
“We have seen in these last seven years that we needed to provide more services for the people of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, and that was confirmed by information that we have received from the City in the last couple of years,” García-Siller told reporters in Spanish. “There is growth, and we need to respond to the needs of the people today and tomorrow.”
García-Siller said that the Catholic Church is not sufficiently present in several areas in the city where its services are needed. The archbishop cited the example of the local Vietnamese community and said he attended a groundbreaking several weeks ago for a new church that is intended to serve that population. The church, located behind Morgan’s Wonderland on the city’s Northeast side, is scheduled to open next year.
“We hope we can respond to these growing community needs through the capital campaign,” he said.
The pilgrimage center behind Mission Concepción, slated to cost $2.2 million, will be located at the former St. John’s Seminary. The courtyard and chapel will be renovated and repurposed to include a coffee shop, gift shop, museum and docent space, a conference room, and an office. Other buildings on the property are owned by 210 Development Group and are slated to become a multi-family residential complex. The archdiocese entered a 75-year renewable lease agreement with 210 Development in 2015.
“The pilgrimage center will present to everyone the history of the faith in this part of Texas, and those that visit our city will have the opportunity to learn about the city’s founding by the Franciscan missionaries,” García-Siller said. “Just picture the pilgrimage that had taken place over a thousand years in the Camino de Santiago in Compostela, Spain. Here it will be called ‘El Camino de San Antonio Missions.’”
The campaign goal includes $21 million to “strengthen our parishes,” Seguin said, which includes building expansion, repairs and renovations, and overall capital needs for the archdiocese’s 130 parishes and 34 mission parishes. These funds don’t include salaries or operating expenses and are strictly “brick and mortar” needs, Seguin told the Rivard Report.
“Every parish will be helped and every parish can present and introduce their project,” García-Siller said. “As soon as those projects are coming in, we’ll be able to help them financially.”
Strengthening campus ministry is another priority for the archdiocese, with $8.1 million of the campaign goal earmarked to build parishes and spearhead campus ministry programs at Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Palo Alto College.
“We also want to help youth and serve the 35,000 Catholic students attending the colleges and universities in our archdiocese,” García-Siller said.
Seguin told the Rivard Report that attendance at Mass has been steady throughout the archdiocese the last few years, and García-Siller said that the number of people seeking refuge through faith has grown.
“The Catholic faith is growing because there is a need in the midst of chaos, confusion, division – we just heard what happened a couple of days ago in Las Vegas – all this killing and lack of sense of life,” García-Siller said. “People are turning to their spiritual peace in their hearts, minds, and souls, and the Catholic faith has an answer for them. We hope to present to people what we have to offer.”