Sitting on a bus in Brentwood, Tennessee, the leaders of St. Pius X Catholic Church in Owensboro, Kentucky, made a decision. In many ways, it was a decision that changed the course of the church and opened new doors for ministry.
At the time, the congregation was wrestling with debt from a capital campaign. The building was beautiful, but the balance of $139,000 was hindering St. Pius from reaching its full potential. So, after attending the first day of Dave Ramsey’s Momentum, several of the parish’s key leaders realized that the debt had to go—and the sooner, the better.
So, with the blessing of the parish’s pastor, Father Julian Ibemere, St. Pius began its Momentum adventure.
The first step was to identify a theme. The leadership team landed on Project Light because it challenged participants to follow through on the Bible’s call for believers to serve as lights to the world (Matthew 5:14–16). They even refurbished a miniature lighthouse and painted it with the church’s colors to provide a visual reminder of what the parish could accomplish.
Within six months, the debt was paid off—a year earlier than expected—meaning St. Pius was debt-free for the first time in a long time. But the congregation’s commitment to a Momentum emphasis didn’t end there. Attitudes across the parish have shifted from finding ways to bring in more money to becoming better stewards of the money God had already provided.
“God had a plan for us to get our finances back in order,” says Gary Estes, the Momentum coordinator at St. Pius and chair of the Parish Council. “Now, two and a half years later, we are debt-free. We have touched 128 St. Pius families and 198 total families with this ministry.”
But that’s not to say everything came easy. Many of the church’s leaders point out that successfully integrating Momentum and Financial Peace University (FPU) into a Catholic context comes with a unique set of challenges.
“One difference between a Catholic parish and some other Christian congregations is that we have a liturgical calendar and certain diocese-wide initiatives,” said John McCarty, who served on St. Pius’ Education Team for Momentum. “It’s hard to fit something different into that particular schedule.”
“Some things just are not going to be disturbed,” agreed David Jones, another Education Team leader. “We are not going to disturb the Lenten season. We are not going to disturb the Advent season. We have some things unique to this parish that can’t be disturbed, so scheduling could have been a difficulty.”
The first step toward overcoming potential obstacles was securing the invaluable support of Father Julian. And while lay leaders directed the bulk of the program, the Momentum teams were quick to acknowledge the important role played by their pastor. In addition to promoting the FPU classes during Mass celebrations, he also attended one of the classes. That visibility provided Project Light with additional credibility and underscored the importance of the emphasis to the life of the congregation.
“It makes a big difference when the one wearing the collar is sitting in the room, taking the class,” Estes observed.
St. Pius also dealt with possible scheduling conflicts by offering FPU every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Eight opportunities each week provided flexibility and showed the parish’s commitment to financial discipleship. As extra incentives, the church offered scholarships, and anyone who completed the nine weeks could get a 50% refund of their membership cost.
The church also embraced the work of the Momentum prayer team. Integrating Project Light into important Catholic observances such as the Rosary, Eucharistic adoration and Mass celebrations encouraged members to see the emphasis as a spiritual exercise, not just a financial obligation.
“We prayed for particular people who were leading the program,” said prayer team member Jane Still. “But we also prayed for everyone who was involved.”
Since accepting the Momentum challenge and paying off its debt, St. Pius has discovered new opportunities to minister within the church and beyond its walls. In addition to working with immigrant populations in Owensboro, the parish has raised money to replace a well for a village in Africa.
“We’ve always been a giving parish,” said Wil Storm, who helps lead St. Pius’ Special Ops Team. “But Momentum has gotten us out of debt to where we can do more than we were able to do before.”
Are you interested in finding out what Momentum can do for your church? Begin the journey today.