Written by Mary Beth Peabody
Kevin Mohan still remembers how welcome he felt as the new kid when a spot in his local Catholic School opened up after the start of the school year. A kindergartener at the time, he recalls the warm greeting and hug from the principal, who made him feel at home the minute he entered the school. Flash forward nearly 30 years, and Kevin — now Father Mohan — is part of the welcoming team at Gloucester Catholic High School in Gloucester City, where he serves as Director of Catholic Identity.
Father Mohan was first in a series of guest speakers at a gathering of South Jersey Catholic elementary school advancement directors on Oct. 23. He spoke about the importance of welcoming families and students with diverse needs and backgrounds, and he encouraged advancement directors to listen and to value conversation.
“Our goal is not to make kids be Catholic. … it’s to turn children into adults who think for themselves, and who are informed and equipped to do that,” he said. He stressed the importance of living and modeling Catholic teaching and values, and respecting the freedom individuals have to make their own choices.
Often the first to greet new and prospective families, advancement directors manage many of the communication and marketing aspects of a school. They promote their schools in local communities, coordinate with partnering parishes, lead school tours, handle marketing and media coverage, maintain social media pages, track and analyze enrollment trends, plan fundraising and promotional events, keep up with alumni, coordinate volunteers, recruit parent ambassadors, manage the annual registration process, and look for non-tuition income sources.
Rosemary Schamp, school business and enrollment specialist in the Office of Catholic Schools, works closely with the advancement directors and coordinated the agenda for the day. “Our presenters were all volunteers, and they did a fantastic job,” she said.
Steve Graham, president of Graham Communications and an active member of the South Jersey Catholic Business Network, shared best practices for websites. Bob Risse from Risse Brothers School Uniforms provided lunch and was on hand to answer questions. With a focus on Millennials and Generation X, Gregory Coogan, director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries for the Diocese of Camden, wove statistics with stories to help advancement directors focus on media and messaging for “20- and 30-Something Parents.”
The agenda took a hands-on-turn as Jackie Kern, advancement director at Saint Mary’s in Williamstown, described and demonstrated how to stream events on Facebook Live. She was joined by husband Joe Kern, a TV news director for KYW in Philadelphia. The Kerns led a successful Facebook Live effort for an open house at Saint Mary’s earlier in the year. With just an iPad and a microphone, they created a mini live event at the session to give advancement directors tips for their own productions.
Diocesan communication director Michael Walsh ended the day with guidelines for working with media and ways the diocese’s Office of Communications can support all South Jersey Catholic Schools.
“As a new advancement director, I appreciate the warm welcome and the willingness to help,” said Betty Kuvinka, who recently joined Our Lady of Hope School in Blackwood. New to the area, Kuvinka brings years of experience from Catholic schools in other dioceses.
When Father Mohan spoke to advancement directors about their role in greeting prospective families he said, “You model respect and love. You [are] the face of the church for that family.” He said that even if a family decides not to enroll, advancement directors can leave a lasting, positive impression by being honest and respectful.
Rosemary Schamp sees that ethic every day. “Our advancement directors have such passion for their schools and for Catholic education,” she said. “They are so appreciative of new ideas, and they learn from each other.”
Mary Beth Peabody is communications and marketing manager, Office of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Camden.