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The Journey Creates Friends - An Interview with Bishop Konderla

In this 100th episode, Andrew visits with Bishop David Konderla from the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma.  Andrew met Bishop Konderla when they worked together at St. Mary's Catholic Center in College Station, and the pair discusses the successes of the campus ministry’s multi-decade capital campaign.  Bishop Konderla also offers insight and advice into how a bishop can (and cannot!) support parish and ministry fundraising campaigns in his diocese.  

Show Notes


Bishop David Konderla was appointed as bishop to the Diocese of Tulsa in 2016.  Prior to his appointment as bishop, Bishop Konderla served in various roles in the Diocese of Austin, including as the diocesan vocations director and as the pastor and director of campus ministry at St. Mary’s Catholic Center in College Station.    


Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma

The Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma is a very rural diocese.  Bishop Konderla shares that one of his challenges as a bishop is finding ways to pull together a very spread out diocese.  Despite the distance between parishes, Bishop Konderla emphasizes the togetherness of the diocese, and he notes that they even changed the name of the diocese to make it more inclusive, adding the words ‘and Eastern Oklahoma’ to the diocese’s name. 


St. Mary’s Catholic Center in College Station

Bishop Konderla served St. Mary’s Catholic Center in College Station, TX for nearly 11 years as pastor and director of campus ministry.  During his tenure at St. Mary’s, Bishop Konderla oversaw tremendous growth of the parish in terms of population, programs, and property.  


Capital Campaign

In his early years as pastor, space for programming and growth was a consistent challenge. To confront the questions about parish growth, St. Mary’s asked Petrus to host a visioning retreat with community members.  This retreat led to the creation of a large, multi-phase, multi-decade capital campaign.  Andrew and Bishop Konderla highlight several lessons from the St. Mary’s campaign:

  1. Raising money takes a long time.  It’s okay if plans change along the way.  It’s important to stay focused on new and changing realities.
  2. Make strategic decisions.  Leaders may not always be thrilled with decision making options in the moment, but it’s important to remain focused on long-term strategic plans for the future.
  3. The campaign journey creates friends.  Spend time getting to know donors, encouraging their investment, and offering ways that they can assist with long-term growth.


Bishops as Fundraisers

Parish fundraisers often ask their bishops to support their fundraising campaigns.  Bishop Konderla highlights ways in which bishops can (and cannot!) support the fundraising efforts of parishes and diocesan organizations.  The bishop has a global view of everything happening in his diocese, and he can offer support in a variety of ways, including help with clarification of campaign vision, with understanding architectural processes, and with the suggestion of alternate funding sources.  The important thing to remember is that early and thorough communication with the bishop and his office is absolutely necessary.


Lightning Round

  1. If you could fundraise for any organization or cause at any time in history, what would it be?
    • Small parishes in the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma that need facilities enhancements.  
  2. If you could get a donor meeting with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
    • Jesus.  Jesus has all the money.  Jesus is the person I’d most like to meet, and in my conversation with him, I could ask, “How about these projects…?”
  3. Is there enough money out there for every organization that's doing good work?
    • I think so.  There’s a tremendous amount of money out there, and donors want to be involved in something they have a passion for.  
  4. What is one piece of advice that you would give your past self?
    • Quit being so anxious about everything.  God is in charge of everything that’s happening and the fact that you don’t know how it’s going to work out doesn’t mean it’s not going to work out.    
  5. Who are 3 people who have most influenced you, professionally?
    • The Trappists (their spirituality in general) 
    • Bishop Mike Sis
    • Peter de Keratry, Greg Gorman, and Frank Shannon
  6. What is one fact about you that most people don’t know?
    • I am an introvert.   
  7. What is a book that you would recommend?
    • A Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri Nouwen


If you would like to connect with Bishop Konderla you can reach him by email at [email protected].  


Andrew's Take-Aways:

First, Bishop Konderla made a great point about the power of thinking strategically about growth. Andrew remembers being a part of that visioning day retreat back in 2006. It was a really fantastic day of reflection and brainstorming and he remembers the excitement that came out of having a list of priorities. That said, Andrew was a little shocked to hear him say that over 15 years later, he still subscribes so much importance to that event and how it shaped decisions at St. Mary’s for as long as it did. It wasn't without some adjustments to the plan, but the fact that it gave a cohesive direction for the staff to move together is really encouraging. If you are thinking about or planning the future of your organization and have not scheduled a time to gather key stakeholders to dream and vision together, hopefully Bishop David demonstrated the value and impact of that experience in a way that has inspired you. 


Second, it was so helpful to hear from a Bishop of a diocese how we should embrace the input from the Bishop in decision making at a local level. Too often, Andrew sees a spirit of competition between the chancery and the ministries of a diocese as opposed to a spirit of collaboration. Andrew loved how he explained the global view that a bishop can offer as a major benefit to anyone making plans for their institution. Dismissing that insight can be a major lost opportunity. 


And third, Bishop David has been around and serving as a priest for a long time, and his line about how the journey of development can create friends was so refreshing. As fundraisers, we are constantly thinking about how we can build relationships for the purposes of raising more money, but the really fulfilling part of this work is building relationships that blossom into friendships. Andrew can think back on his time in development and he still has friendships with folks that he met through a fundraiser slash donor role, and he is so thankful for those opportunities and those people. Hopefully you can have some of those same experiences over the course of your career.


I hope that you enjoyed this episode. If you liked it, please share it with a colleague or friend in the industry. As always, you can reach me at [email protected] if you have questions or want to chat. Have a great day and we’ll see you back next time.


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