By Jim McConnell, parish contact representative
The first few phone calls I made after starting to work on the parish contact team were awkward. I wished I had said something different each time I hung up. Or, I thought of something new to say. Or, I thought about a better way of saying what needed to be communicated to the person on the other end of the phone line.
Even though I had been a sponsor for more than a year when I started working for CFCA, I had a lot to learn about this beautiful movement, as CFCA President Bob Hentzen calls it.
The first time I met Bob and got a chance to speak with him personally, I told him how happy I was to be able to work at CFCA and make a difference. He looked at me with those twinkling eyes and said, ìItís a wonderful movement, isnít it?î I couldnít wait to get back on the phone and start using the word ìmovementî to describe CFCA.
My supervisor, Adrian, kept assuring me that I was doing well and that the message I wanted to convey would evolve with experience. How do you tell someone in two minutes ñ the average amount of time we usually have when we finally get a pastor on the phone ñ what CFCA has developed over the past 29 years?
There is so much to say, and there are so many stories that could be told. But, itís hard to convey the important points and stick to the objective of getting a CFCA presenter into the parish so they can share the CFCA stories to the potential sponsors sitting in the pews.
The wonderful ladies in the Florida satellite office gave us a lot of encouragement. They told us that when a pastor says “no” to a visit, not to get discouraged. As they say, ì’No’ means no today.î We will get another chance the next time we call.
We always keep in mind that we are calling for the sponsored children and elderly, who cannot call. We are speaking on behalf of the child, youth or elderly person who doesnít have a way of asking for help.
We are speaking on behalf of our brothers and sisters who live in situations that are beyond their control but not beyond their hope. We need to help them by finding someone who will be their companion on the journey out of despair, desperation and hardships.
There are more than 18,000 Catholic parishes in the United States, and CFCA has visited many of them over the years. But, occasionally, we run across a parish that has never been visited. If we do our job well, then the pastor will learn that CFCA is a compassionate and professional organization. He will understand that we are working in solidarity by walking with the poor and the marginalized we serve.
If, in doing our job, we stay grounded in the Gospel call to serve the poor, that message will resonate with pastors, and they will be open to our message. And hopefully, they will open their doors to CFCA.
This is the second of four entries in the parish contact series. Read more here:
Part 1: The diary of a parish contact
Part 3: ‘Lord, … help me do your work’
Part 4: Every time a bell rings, a child gets closer to sponsorship