Petrus Development Show Episode 19 – Fr. Larry Rice: Trust and Understanding

Interview with Fr. Larry Rice on The Petrus Development Show

Director of Campus Ministry for the University Catholic Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Fr. Larry Rice discusses his role at the UCC and also his previous role as Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry at St. Thomas More Newman Center at the Ohio State University. He compares and contrasts working in campus ministry at these two schools. Fr. Larry just celebrated his 30th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood with the Paulist Fathers. He understands campus ministry and the principles of development and takes his role as supervisor seriously. Share this episode with a priest.



Show Notes:

  • Fr. Larry was Andrew’s boss from 2008-2011 when Andrew was the Director of Development at St. Thomas More Newman Center and Fr. Larry was Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry.
  • Sophomore at Penn State University – he was surprised by his vocational calling to the priesthood.
  • Fr. Larry just celebrated his 30th anniversary of ordination
  • Has had a variety of assignments that have led to him having the right skill set for campus ministry
  • Fr. Larry says his role as director of campus ministry is to lead the community and the staff into lifelong mission and service for Christ and His Church. His role is to make sure that they are doing that in a way that is faithfully Catholic, that presents our faith in ways that are authentic and true and accessible to people, and that they are constantly working to bring more of their university students deeper into their faith and deeper into leadership.
  • Similarities between the campus ministries at UT and OSU: Both have and have had really excellent staffs committed to the mission, and that care passionately about the students they serve.
  • Differences: cultural approach to religiosity – In Texas, people’s expressions of faith and piety is up front and they are willing to talk to you about what they believe and about their prayer life and spirituality. In Ohio, people are friendly and engaging but it takes more time and more investment to get people to go deeper in their spirituality. Conversely – In Ohio it was easier to get to know non-student resident parishioners but in Texas that parishioner base was more difficult to get to know.
  • He believes that the parish based model is better for campus ministry (not just a newman center) that way it doesn’t become too homogenous. A homogenous community of students results in dissatisfaction after they leave because they won’t have a church like their student center again. The parish based model gives continuity after graduation.
  • Resident Community is important!: Not just there for our financial support, but are a critical element of the community. Once that model is clear to everyone, residents understands they are campus ministers as well.
  • Sunday offertory covers between 18 and 20% of the operating expenses. (At the University Catholic Center) so it is vital for them to have a growing development program.
  • They are working to broaden their base of support: locating alumni, have better outreach to parents, keep track of students after graduation
  • UT students don’t have as enduring of a connection after graduation as, for example, Texas A&M students do. So they are working to build their networks by making regular trips to Dallas, Houston, and soon San Antonio for small scale events (Mass and lunch with presentations)
  • The University hasn’t been helpful with this yet, but Fr. Larry’s associate, Fr. Jimmy Hsu, is a UT grad and they plan to have him make some connections with the rumored Catholic network through Texas Exes.
  • Fr. Larry doesn’t just hand off development work to the development director, but believes it is important for him to be a part of the process as well. Because the pastor/chaplain is the person who is really establishing the vision for the place. So there are times when a lot of people just want to talk to the priest.
  • Building a network is done one relationship at a time.
  • Need a close working relationship with your development staff.  Need to build a relationship of trust.
  • The mission follows the money.  There is nothing wrong with asking for the money that you need.
Andrew’s three takeaways:
  1. Parish model. Andrew has seen lots of models work and not work, but he thinks that Fr. Larry put it very well when he mentioned the Campus Ministry operating within a parish setting.  If you’re in this setting, think about how you can engage your students more. He has seen an unhealthy divide before. There are always ways to bring groups together.
  2. Get to know your development staff. When you can build trust within the team, that’s huge. His development team has the most access to his calendar and schedule. If you are a priest, executive director, or development director work on ways that you can build this trust and work together.
  3. Database: UT is struggling to find their Alumni to add to the database even though they have a large alumni base to tap into. It is a long process. Don’t get discouraged but get started because this greatly impacts your annual fund.
Andrew’s Action Item:
  • Schedule a time to go to lunch with your executive director or your pastor. Take a look at their calendar. Avoid talking strategy.  Just try to build the relationship and get to know them. If you’ve known them for a long time, this is a chance to re-engage with them and keep the relationship fresh.

Show Transcript:

Andrew [00:01:31] Howdy everyone. Thank you for joining us for another episode of The Petrus Development Show. I’ve got a very special guest here today. Fr. Larry Rice is the Director of the University Catholic Center at the University of Texas in Austin and Fr. Larry and I have actually known each other for many years. He was my boss back from 2008 to 2011 when I was the Director of Development at St. Thomas More Newman Center at The Ohio State University. Fr. Larry was the chaplain and director there and so we’ve known each other for a long time and stayed in touch and now Fr. Larry is much closer to me, now being in Texas. Unfortunately he’s in that other city that me as an Aggie I have to feel some sort of feeling towards. But Fr. Larry is doing great work there at the University Catholic Center and ministering to all the students of University of Texas and I’m thrilled that he can sit down with me today and visit. So Fr. Larry thank you so much for being here.

Fr. Larry [00:02:25] My pleasure. It’s great to be with you Andrew.

Andrew [00:02:25] So Fr. Larry, people love to hear about how you got to where you are and I know that you are a priest you’re a Paulist priest and you’re serving at the University Catholic Center in Austin but just kind of give us a little background. Where did you hear your call to the priesthood? How did you end up joining the Paulist Fathers? And then what has that journey been like over the last couple of years?

Fr. Larry [00:02:47] Great. And then in our second hour.

Andrew [00:02:48] (laughter)

Fr. Larry [00:02:48] I’ll give you the short version…I realized I was headed for priesthood when I was a sophomore at Penn State University where I was, at the time, studying computer science. And unlike most people I felt that vocational call literally as like a bolt out of the blue. It was a surprise to me and I think to a lot of people but so far it seems to be working out. I’ve just celebrated my 30th ordination anniversary.

Andrew [00:03:17] Congratulations.

Fr. Larry [00:03:17] With the Paulist Fathers I have had a huge variety of assignments: I’ve had parish assignments; I spent about twelve years working in our communications offices doing radio and television and marketing communications and a lot of Internet based stuff; I’ve worked in campus ministry both at the University of Texas and at the Ohio State University; I spent some time on our national leadership team for four years; and I did about three years as vocation director for the Paulists. And all of those things taken together I think have really helped me develop some important skills for use in campus ministry. So I feel like through all of those things I’ve kind of been led to this point and I feel like this is the right skill set for campus ministry.

Andrew [00:04:07] Tell me a little bit about when you’re explaining to people that you are Director of Campus Ministry there at the University of Texas. What do people understand that to be? What is campus ministry to you in your setting, and then also just sort of generally speaking?

Fr. Larry [00:04:21] I can tell you kind of how I approach the role and what it means to me. I think that’s…I can’t speak for everybody else…but I will tell you that from my perspective, my role as director of campus ministry is to lead the community and the staff here towards the mission that I believe that God has given us. That mission is to lead our university community into lifelong mission and service for Christ and His Church and my role in the midst of all of that is to make sure that we are doing that in a way that is faithfully Catholic, that presents our faith in ways that are authentic and true and accessible to people, and that we are constantly working to bring more of our university students deeper into their faith and deeper into leadership. You know we have a lot of students that are working towards discipleship but I also want to make sure we’re developing leaders in the midst of that. So my job is to lead the staff here, to help them understand what the vision for this place is, and to communicate that effectively to our community through all of our communication channels and through our preaching and our programming, and beyond that to kind of deal with whatever comes up. And every day is different. So you just never know.

Andrew [00:05:41] Yeah. So you have a unique situation where you’ve served in two different…totally different campuses. Ohio State University is in the Midwest. They’re both large schools. University of Texas and Ohio State are both large schools but very different kind of student base, student population. How have those two assignments been different? And I know you were at different positions in your life at the time, of course, but how have those assignments been different and how they’ve been similar?

Fr. Larry [00:06:07] Well, I’ll start off with the ways that I think they’ve been similar, because I think that’s easier. One of the similarities between those two ministries is that they both have and have had really excellent staffs. You know the folks that we worked with in Columbus and the caliber and commitment of the people that were there. And here in Austin I think we have a very similar kind of staff and the fact that people are committed to the place in its mission. We’ve got a staff that gets along well. There’s very little drama. And we’re all people that care passionately about the students that we’re here to serve. Those are definitely common elements. Some of the things that are a little bit different: I think that the cultural approach to people’s religiosity is different in Texas than it is in the Midwest for sure. In Texas, my experience is that, people’s expressions of faith and their their piety and religiosity is really right up front. And people are willing to talk to you about what they believe and about their prayer life and their spirituality and that’s very much up front for people and they’re happy to chat with that. My experience of people in Ohio is that people are very friendly and engaging and it just takes more time and more investment to get people to kind of go deeper into their spirituality and to get to know them better and those kinds of things. Conversely, one of the things that I’ve experienced as a priest is that, in Columbus it felt much easier for me to get to know people– to get to know my parishioners, you know that the non-student resident community that’s with us– and my experience in Texas is that there is a little bit stronger kind of clerical culture that makes it more challenging for people to approach to get to know you better and to develop those kinds of friendships. So that’s something I’ve been trying to sort out over the last couple of years to kind of figure out what that needs. The cultures are definitely very different: In terms of student population we have a lot more Hispanic students here in Texas, certainly. I think we have a larger percentage of Asian students here. But beyond that I think that the students are similar in that my experience of them is that they are looking for a genuine and authentic experience of their Catholic faith.

Andrew [00:08:37] Right. And probably, I would say, a lot of that is being at such a big school, and I went to a big school myself. Everybody is looking for their community, their smaller community within that campus context with which they can have friends, they can form relationships that ideally would be lifelong relationships but connections, and so oftentimes the campus ministry provides that smaller community, even in a place like a university with fifty thousand students.

Fr. Larry [00:09:05] Oh absolutely. Yeah that’s certainly been my experience at the places where I’ve worked. I know you experienced that at Texas A&M as well, is that when students– particularly students that are a little less extroverted or that are from you know a small town or just don’t have the experience of being in a big city at a big university– It’s very easy to find it hard to connect or to feel like they’re getting a little bit lost. And so church is familiar and it’s deep and it reaches people. And so that becomes a really easy way for people to connect and to start finding that community they’re looking for.

Andrew [00:09:44] You mentioned that earlier in Ohio. You connected very well with…very easily…I guess I should say…with the resident community there at the Newman Center. And thinking back to my time there, I think my numbers may be off, but I want to say we had 700 registered families there at the Newman Center at Ohio State?

Fr. Larry [00:10:01] That’s about right.

Andrew [00:10:01] Which is large for a campus ministry setting in many cases. And some people listening may have that same experience but I find that more often than not Newman Centers or campus ministries have a smaller permanent community, resident community parishioner base than 700. What is the experience like there at the University of Texas?

Fr. Larry [00:10:20] Over the past few years I’ve really experienced our resident community here getting a little bit smaller and I think that that is mostly a logistics problem, because in the last five to ten years all of the free parking has disappeared around here.

Andrew [00:10:36] (laughter) Brutal.

Fr. Larry [00:10:39] Yeah it is. It is because most people do not expect and do not want to pay eight or ten dollars to go to church on Sunday. And so parking is a real problem for us and we’re going to have to find some way of dealing with that in the next 6 to 18 months. But let me say a few words about why I think that resident community is important to campus ministry because this is something I believe very strongly. I think that there are basically two models of campus ministry that are really prevalent and one of them is the kind of Newman Center model of campus ministry where it’s basically just the students and their campus ministers and there is another model that’s much more parochial or parish based. And I think that the parish based model is a better model for campus ministry for those places where it’s just the students on their campus ministers. That becomes a very homogenous community. And so those students get accustomed to a setting in which all of the church’s attention and resources is lavished on them, sometimes not very much is asked of them in return, and they get used to being part of a homogenous community, and then when they graduate they will never again have an experience of church that looks like that or feels like that. And that can lead to some some disaffection because they’ll think, “Why can’t this always be as wonderful as our campus ministry was?” On the other hand, if you use a more parish based model for campus ministry then you should have older retired people around, and faculty and staff, and families with little kids, and a religious ed program for those kids, and you should see people in wheelchairs, and people from other parts of the world, and all those things that are what “church looks like” for us. And that then can become the matrix within which the campus ministry happens. And that gives the students that come to us something that looks familiar when they arrive on campus– it has all the marks of a parish they’re used to– but also, as we invite them into participation and train them for leadership, once they graduate they know how to go to their next parish and they know where they can plug in. So there’s some continuity to their life of faith from parish, to campus, to next parish. And what’s critical in the midst of that is managing those two inflection points. But I think that’s a better model and that’s why that resident community is important. They’re not just here for our financial support they’re here because they’re a critical element of our faith community. And once that model is clear to everyone and you’re really working on implementing it then everybody in that resident community understands that if they are here they are campus ministers also. You know they’re typically there because they like the energy of a young congregation. They like being around college students and experiencing their enthusiasm for their faith. But it’s reasonable for them to have some expectations of that community as well. And if we can’t serve all of their needs then that can sometimes become a point of conflict as well. I remember at one point I had some correspondence with someone in Ohio who had come to the Newman Center at Ohio State and who had concluded after a while that it was just not the right place for her because it seemed to her like too much of it was all about the students that we were trying to serve. And I said to her, “You know if that’s not something you’re interested in, I’m sure that they’ll take really good care of you at St. Paul’s in Westerville…You know you don’t have to come here. If you do, it’s important that you buy into our mission and are willing to support that and importantly to become part of that mission.”

Andrew [00:14:41] But I loved how you put it how that makes that your entire community campus ministers. I remember back when we were at when I was at Ohio State, Dr. George Smith was one of the faculty members and longtime parishioners there at the Newman Center.

Andrew [00:14:55] And I love his story. He used to be so proud of the fact that his email address was Smith.5@osu.edu. And the way that they assign e-mail addresses is they just go in numerical order. So it would be rice.14 for you and it would be Robison…you know…874 for me but the fact that Smith.5 meant that…and they don’t ever reassign numbers… meant that he was the fifth Smith to receive an email address and he wore that as a badge of pride and honor for sure. But one of the things that George was also really great about was he used to talk all the time about how I see these kids…I think he was retired when I was there but he said, “I see these kids all the time…kids…I see these students all the time in class and then they see me lectoring at Sunday Mass, or they see me being a hospitality minister, or they see me just being there being present at Mass. And I don’t have to engage them at my Mass…I do because I’m a friendly guy and they like seeing me and they want to come on but talk to me…But just that witness that they see me being active in my faith and a university professor I believe that is an important role for me to play in this community and in the Church.” And I just loved his idea and that mentality that he had. He wasn’t a faculty member that would never lector because he didn’t want students seeing him in that context (and I understand why people would feel that way) But he was proud of that fact and loved that he was able to connect with his students all the days of the week I guess. But that goes to your point earlier about how, when you’re parishioners when you’re community members understand that the mission of that campus ministry center is to the students but they are a part of that, then they can take ownership of that campus ministry role themselves personally.

Fr. Larry [00:16:50] Right. And it also means that we have to lean into what their legitimate needs and expectations are as well. So if they are families with little kids we need to make sure that there’s religious education for them. We need to make sure that there are enrichment programs and ways of deepening their faith for everybody that’s here. And that’s honestly something that we are still working on at University Catholic Center at UT to find ways to more deeply engage the resident community.

Andrew [00:17:22] So this is a podcast about fundraising, about development, obviously.

Fr. Larry [00:17:25] Wait, really?

Andrew [00:17:29] (laughter) Surprise!

Fr. Larry [00:17:29] OK. (laughter)

Andrew [00:17:29] Gotcha…But you bring up all of this conversation is great in that context as well because you have parishioners who are actively attending mass and that’s their Sunday parish and for many of these cases. And so they’re also they’re called to tithe and they’re called to be stewards of their gifts by supporting the Church. And so, in some ways, that makes your need to fundraise and have development– some people might say– not as important, because you have a base of supporters coming every Sunday and to some it would say no, it means it makes it even more important because you have to then engage people outside of that parish, alumni parents, to support the ministry as well. So where do you fall on that spectrum and then how have you seen your role as director and (I know you said you’re not pastor but) pastor to the people of the parish, from a stewardship standpoint I guess?

Fr. Larry [00:18:24] Well I think that we have to be careful that the resident community doesn’t feel like we only care about them when they’re writing checks.

Andrew [00:18:33] They’re just the honeypot, Right?

Fr. Larry [00:18:34] Yeah. No that’s not good. That’s that’s not good for them, it’s not good for us, it’s not good for our students either. It’s not a helpful attitude. Having said that, the fact is that, in our situation here our Sunday offertory, which includes both that resident community and our student community, only covers between 18 and 20 percent of our operating expenses. And I mean you can’t operate a typical Catholic parish with those kinds of numbers. And so that really requires us to look for other resources and other sources of support and that’s why it’s vitally important for us to have a good active and growing development program.

Andrew [00:19:18] And you mentioned earlier that one of the things that you loved about both institutions, and particularly the University of Texas now is where you’re at, is the staff that you have. And I know you have a great development staff there at the UCC, so can you tell us a little bit about what your development staff looks like and what you inherited when you came three years ago and what you have…how you have engaged them and engaged in that process?

Fr. Larry [00:19:40] When I got here three years ago the previous director of development at the Catholic Center had just departed. And in fact they were preparing to hire somebody new. Just as I was arriving and my predecessor as the director here kind of looped me into the hiring process. So I actually got to interview the candidates before I was even here. There were a number of of okay candidates and one that really seemed outstanding to me, and so he’s the one that we hired.

Andrew [00:20:10] Good.

Fr. Larry [00:20:10] Yeah. And that’s Christopher Dowling. He is our Director of Advancement and he’s been here for three years. We also have Carol Phillip who is our Director of Stewardship. So she works primarily with our resident community and on our direct mail appeals. She also does our grant writing and research and some of those kinds of tasks. She’s also managing a lot of our communications around development. For this past year and into next year we have a student intern who’s been working with us part time. Last year he was doing primarily database work, as we were going through a big database conversion project, and now he is developing some interest in actually working with our development staff, building relationships with people, running campaigns, doing solicitations…So that’s kind of a growing area for him. So I’ve got basically two and a half people on my development staff.

Andrew [00:21:09] And what are some of your annual goals and what are some of the things that you’re working on that you’ve been working on those three years and then now, currently?

Fr. Larry [00:21:18] Our primary goal right now is to make sure that we have the resources to cover our budget, I mean that’s always goal number one, but we’re also working on some plans to broaden our base of support. And that means, for us, that we’ve got to do a lot more work to locate our alumni, to have better outreach to our parents and potentially grandparents to our students, and to keep track of our students as they graduate. In previous years we haven’t done a great job of tracking people as they’ve moved on into the world. And those are all things that we’re trying to do better to develop that base of support.

[00:22:00] [We’ll get back to the interview in just a second. But first here’s a quick message…Is your organization looking to take the next step in fundraising? Is it time to grow the ministry staff, bring in a FOCUS team, or build a new building? Petrus sees too many ministries stuck where they are because they are reliant on a single line item in someone else’s budget and don’t know how to get started building a fundraising program. Our Ministry of Petrus Development is to teach religious organizations how to fundraise for themselves and open up their possibilities for growth. We want you to have the knowledge and skills to build your ministy’s development program, so the mission can continue to expand and impact many more people. The Petrus Sustainable Development Consulted Program is designed to help you take that next step. Our experienced team of Petrus consultants spends time with our clients through a blended schedule of onsite meetings and weekly touch points by video, phone, and email. The consultants provide direction and coaching specifically tailored to your ministry. In addition you’ll receive access to dozens of how to guides and hundreds of sample documents to make the process even simpler. To learn more about the Petrus Sustainable Development Consulting Program visit our website at petrusdevelopment.com/services.]

Andrew [00:23:15] I would guess…doing the numbers…because A&M and University of Texas are pretty similar in size and history, that you probably have about a half a million alumni from University of Texas. Would that sound about right?

Fr. Larry [00:23:26] That sounds about right. Yeah.

Andrew [00:23:28] And so of those half million you’re probably the same numbers 20 to 25 percent would be considered Catholic? Is that about right?

Fr. Larry [00:23:35] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew [00:23:36] So you can make the very strong case that you’ve got between one hundred and hundred and twenty five thousand Catholic alumni that went through the university, whether they went through your doors, there at the UCC it’s hard to know, but that’s a lot. And so the challenge is how do you connect with, how do you find them, how do you connect with them? And then how, if they’ve been gone for many years, how do you re-engage them in what you’re doing now?

Fr. Larry [00:24:01] Yeah. And that is a big challenge. One of the big advantages that they have at that other Texas school out of the middle of nowhere…which you are a graduate of…you know their alumni tend to stay much more engaged with the school after they graduate. You know Texas A&M is really known for that, once you’re an Aggie you are an Aggie for life you know. You don’t even need to get the tattoo. Everybody just knows, right? And so on one level you know those folks stay engaged and I think that that’s a big help to the campus ministry. At other schools like, oh for example, UT, it’s not quite that enthusiastic and that connection doesn’t seem to be as enduring for a lot of people. So what we’ve been working on is trying to build our networks and we do that by making regular trips to major cities in Texas, primarily been working in Dallas and Houston. I hope to soon start branching out into San Antonio a little bit. And we gather groups of alumni and parents and we do small scale events. We’ve got parents that have set up prayer groups where they get together and pray for their kids together. We’ve done lunch meetings with Mass and then a little presentation afterwords at the downtown Chapel in Houston and we invite alumni to that and then once we we make connections with some of those people we ask them to put us in touch with their friends, acquaintances that are also Longhorn Catholics. And it’s kind of long, slow work but that’s how you build the network. And so we’ve been putting a lot of energy into building our base through those kinds of networks.

Andrew [00:25:47] Has the university been helpful in any way with connecting you with Catholics, either while they’re students or as alumni?

Fr. Larry [00:25:54] Oh you dear, naive man. (laughter).

Andrew [00:26:00] (laughter).

Fr. Larry [00:26:00] No. But we have a plan for that.

Andrew [00:26:04] OK. Yeah.

Fr. Larry [00:26:05] Yeah. My associate here is Father Jimmy Hsu. And he is an alumnus of the University of Texas. And so we are planning on asking him to make some connections through the alumni organization to see if he can’t make some inroads into tracking those things down. We have heard rumors that there is actually a Catholic network among those Texas exes. But until we have somebody who is actually a member we can’t get access to those sorts of things. So that’s part of the plan for this year as well.

Andrew [00:26:39] One of the things that, and I was just a beneficiary of this because you had set this up before I got there, but I loved at Ohio State University at the Newman Center, we had a leadership council. And the Leadership Council had some really fantastic folks on it. Some in particular, kind of with this conversation, are Joe Aludo who was the provost the acting provost of the university was a member of the Leadership Council, Dr. Michael Calageri who was the, I believe President or CEO for the James Cancer Hospital there which was the university hospital system, was on the Leadership Council. And I don’t either of them regularly attended Mass but they certainly came to leadership council meetings. They came to a number of events. Dr. Aludo, even when he couldn’t make the meetings I remember we had sort of a standing appointment, you and I would go and see Dr. Aludo the week after the leadership council meeting…if he couldn’t be there and he’d give us an hour to update him on what was going on and provide input. And we got a lot of intel on what the university was planning through him. And then also…I think in part because of those connections…we were able to forge a really good relationship with Dr. Gordon Ghee, who was the President of the University. And Dr. Ghee, in fact, came to a couple of meetings and presented to the students and was really excited, even though he was not Catholic, but he saw the value of the campus ministry and having a strong campus ministry for the students. So I know that you helped to set that up at Ohio State University. Have you been working on that there at the University of Texas since you’ve been there? What’s been the response from the university in engaging in some of those similar ways?

Fr. Larry [00:28:15] We’ve made some inroads with some of the faculty and staff. Part of the challenge is that the university administration here just approaches religious organizations very differently than they did in Ohio.

Andrew [00:28:29] Can you kind of explain that a little bit?

Fr. Larry [00:28:32] Yeah. The University Interfaith Association at Ohio State was a fairly strong group of campus ministers from various faith traditions and they had, through the university student life office, built really strong relationships with a lot of pieces of the university with the administration, with mental health services, with student life, to wellness. You know there were a lot of really good relationships there and then that went all the way up to the President’s Office. And that was how those campus ministers had a formal relationship to the university. And that worked well enough that when they were designing a new student union building we lobbied them to put an office for the Interfaith Organization in the new Student Union. And they did that, along with an interfaith chapel space that one of their benefactors paid for. So the university faculty and staff, and in particular the administration was very open to engaging those campus ministries and campus ministers. We have not had as much success making those inroads in Texas. And I don’t know exactly what the basis for that is because without that dialogue it’s very hard to say what they’re thinking. But so far the administration has been pretty standoffish to our attempts to kind of strengthen some of those ties.

Andrew [00:29:56] I would probably say that your experience at the University of Texas is more becoming the norm. Universities are trying to, sort of, disengage with faith communities, which is tough, and I would say, probably the wrong move, but I know the climate is different now than it was in the past. What can we do as campus ministers as campus ministries to prevent that from going to the extreme? Is there..other than building relationships and trying to connect on a personal level with people, are there things that campus ministers or campus ministries can do to help that?

Fr. Larry [00:30:30] I think building those personal relationships is really important. If you can find one or two people who are prominent faculty members or part of the university administration they could be a big help in establishing some of those relationships. Part of the reason it worked so well at Ohio State is because that university approached it through the lens of diversity. So they weren’t showing any preference to any religious organization. There were no church-state issues. But it was all part of their diversity initiative. That’s why they had all these different faith organizations on the part of what they were doing.

Andrew [00:31:07] Yeah you said it was the Office of Interfaith Ministry. Hmm. Interesting. So I want to go back to something that you said a minute ago when you were talking about, you’re going around the state, you and Christopher, I presume, and others on the team, to have these events in Houston and Dallas and San Antonio and you said, “We are going,” as in, “You are a part of this.” This is not something that you handed off to the Development Director to say, “Go. Be fruitful and bring me money.” You’re a part of it.

Fr. Larry [00:31:37] That’s really important. Although I will tell you that today Christopher is going up to Dallas for some meetings, but I won’t actually be going with him this time. But with some regularity we do those meetings and those events together.

Andrew [00:31:52] Yeah. So tell me why you do that and why you think it’s important that you’re part of that process.

Fr. Larry [00:31:58] Well there are a couple of reasons: One of them is because I’m the one who is really establishing the vision for the place. There are times when I need to be the one that articulates that to potential benefactors. And for better or for worse the Roman collar still means something to a lot of those benefactors and they want to talk to the priest, they want to talk to the chaplain. And I can talk to them about the impact that we have on students because I see that very personally and very directly. I don’t go to every one of those events because my schedule doesn’t really permit that but as much as I kid I like to. I want to get out there and meet these parents. I want them to notch up support us financially. But I want to know that they’re praying for us and praying for their students and for those times that I’m there. I want to be able to say to them, “You have friends and neighbors that have students at UT. Why don’t you invite those friends and neighbors to come to this next prayer group meeting? Or this next lunch that we’re going to do so we can talk about what happens at our campus ministry and why they should encourage their kids to be involved and how that works. So again that’s all part of building the network and you really do that one relationship at a time.

Andrew [00:33:12] Right. Right. And I think, like you said, it’s important that you’re present. It’s important that you’re involved. One of the things that Father Ben mentioned on the podcast a couple of months ago is…he’s in his first assignment as director of Campus Ministry.

Fr. Larry [00:33:25] OK.

Andrew [00:33:25] And he said you know it’s been actually very encouraging and edifying for him as the Director of Campus Ministry as the Chaplain to these students to meet alumni that say, “I may (or may not) have been engaged in the campus ministry when I was a student but now that I’m an alumnus I see the value and I’m actually very active in my faith.” And so it’s been very encouraging and edifying for him as a campus minister to see the impact– the long term impact– that their work there at the campus is having on the students, even as they’re alumni, as they are becoming parents, they have small kids or they’re engaged. And so in part it’s good for you as well to be able to just see those students after they are out of your care and be able to tell those stories to you about their involvement.

Fr. Larry [00:34:13] Oh yeah. No that’s really important.

Andrew [00:34:15] OK good. Well I think that the work that you’re doing there at the University of Texas is very important and as a…you know as an Aggie I can poke a lot of barbs and say they need it a lot, right? The students there at University of Texas…those Longhorns.

Fr. Larry [00:34:27] We definitely do. I’ll grant you that one.

Andrew [00:34:31] But I could say the same thing about every campus. That you are on the front lines of a very important piece of the Church that allows students to either maintain their faith after college. I saw a survey the other day that said that 70 percent of Christians leave their faith during their college time. They grow up in some faith and when they leave they don’t care. They don’t practice. Seventy percent is a lot. It’s incredibly important the work that you’re doing there at the University of Texas and I think that what you are doing from a fundraising standpoint and growing that network and being able to engage other people and engage your alumni beyond graduation I think is really important as well.

Fr. Larry [00:35:11] Something else that I want to make sure that we don’t miss, because I know my time is limited this afternoon, but knowing the audience for these podcasts I think it’s really important that I say something about how critical it is to have a close working relationship with your development staff. I spend a lot of time with my advancement director and my stewardship director and in meetings with them individually and with the whole development team. I spend time on the road with them. We do conferences together periodically. And it’s really important to develop a relationship of trust with your development staff. If Christopher or Carol or Josh says something to me about, “You know I think we need to approach this differently” or “Here’s what I think we need to work with this particular benefactor,” I need to be able to lean into that and to trust their judgment. And I give my development staff more control over my schedule than anybody else on the staff. Really. Because without that close working relationship we can’t accomplish the things that we need. So the other thing I want to say is for people that are new to the idea that they need to be raising money for their campus ministry, I just want to say don’t be afraid of it. I started down this road when I was at Ohio State and we were Petrus clients and Petrus did a lot of great work to help me understand how fundraising works and how important it is and to not be afraid of it. And there is a legitimate spirituality around fundraising that is very helpful just to realize that really the fundraising that we do provides the fuel for our mission. And without those resources the mission just does not continue.

Andrew [00:37:04] I know you know Mike Perkins, a good friend of yours, and I quote him all the time but, he has said many times when you have more money you can do more ministry. There’s no question about it.

Fr. Larry [00:37:14] And that is absolutely true. Mike was one of my first teachers in this field and we are still good friends and he is still very helpful to me. But yeah the mission follows the money and there is nothing wrong with asking people to support your mission by giving you the money that you need to receive and that on some level they need to give away. You know those needs can come together and to have the resources that you need to do this important work is worth stepping out of your comfort zone sometimes and to ask people to support you and to support your mission. To do that you’ve got to have a good sense of vision for what you want the thing to look like and where you’re going. But once that’s in place then people will understand the need and they will support you. So don’t be afraid to jump in and make those phone calls, do the visits, work with your benefactors, and watch your ministry grow.

Andrew [00:38:15] Well I know you’re running up against another appointment but I want to get in our lightning round questions if we can.

Fr. Larry [00:38:20] OK. Go for it.

Andrew [00:38:22] [The Lightning Round is brought to you by the Petrus Development Annual Manual. If you are looking to start or grow a young Development Program the Annual Manual will get you started on the right path by providing a suite of development resources. Included is a development calendar, weekly emails to keep you on track, access to dozens of how to guides and samples, and a weekly phone consultation with a development consultant. Visit petrusdevelopment.com/annualmanual to learn more.]

Andrew [00:38:46] First question if you could be a fund raiser for any organization or cause at any point in history what would it be?

Fr. Larry [00:38:53] I’m going to say Paulist Fathers. This is Lightening Round, I don’t have to justify these answers, Right?

Andrew [00:38:57] (laughter) That’s true. Number two: If you could get a donor meeting with anybody in the world living or dead who would it be with?

Fr. Larry [00:39:04] Mark Wahlberg.

Andrew [00:39:04] (laughter) Perfect. Number three: Is there enough money out there for every organization that’s doing good work?

Fr. Larry [00:39:11] Yes, absolutely.

Andrew [00:39:13] Number four: If you could go back in time and offer yourself one piece of advice what would it be?

Fr. Larry [00:39:18] Start earlier. (laughter) Start fundraising earlier.

Andrew [00:39:24] (laughter) Ok. Good. And last question: Who are three people who have most influenced your growth as a priest doing development work?

Fr. Larry [00:39:31] OK, I’m going to say that would be Mike Perkins, Peter de Keratry, and I’m gonna say Christopher Dowling.

Andrew [00:39:40] Great.

Fr. Larry [00:39:40] You would be very close on that list though.

Andrew [00:39:47] (laughter) Oh I appreciate that. Honorable mention. I’ll take it. You just earned yourself another interview on the podcast.

Fr. Larry [00:39:52] Oh OK. Anytime.

Andrew [00:39:54] Good. So Fr. Larry I really do appreciate you taking the time to visit with us today. And I thank you for all the work that you’re doing in development and campus ministry in the Catholic Church for the Paulist Fathers. And we’ll continue to pray for you and your ministry and everything that you guys are doing.

Fr. Larry [00:40:11] Thank you so much Andrew. Keep in touch.

Andrew [00:40:13] Great. And for everybody listening thank you so much for joining us. Hope you enjoyed the conversation. If you have any questions, want to reach out to Father Larry, you can find his information on the web site. What’s that web site, Father?

Fr. Larry [00:40:25] utcatholic.org. You can also e-mail me at frlarry@utcatholic.org.

Andrew [00:40:30] Great. And I encourage you to reach out if you have any questions for Father Larry. And I know that he will be happy to visit with you and help share some of his years of knowledge with you and with us. Thank you so much. God bless and have a great day.


Giving to religious causes vastly exceeds any other category in the nonprofit sector, but faith-based organizations often struggle the most with fundraising effectively. Join Andrew Robison, President of Petrus Development, as he explores this topic through honest and revealing conversations with church leaders, executive directors and development professionals from the nonprofit community.

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