Tag: Jim McConnell

Aug 4 2010

Learning is an evolution

By Jim McConnell, parish contact representative

JimThe 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

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Aug 3 2010

The diary of a parish contact representative

Many of our sponsors probably first heard of CFCA while sitting in a pew during Mass. Those priests were at your parish because a small group of dedicated staff members worked with your pastor to arrange a CFCA weekend presentation.

Parish contact representatives for CFCA reach out to Catholic parishes across the United States. The parish contact team, comprised of nine devoted people, works out of the Kansas headquarters and a Florida satellite office. This week, in a four-part series, Jim McConnell and Cathy Cazares will introduce you to the daily triumphs and disappointments of the parish contact representative.

By Jim McConnell, parish contact representative

I spent 33 years in technical sales in the corporate world before coming to CFCA. Working as an outbound caller at CFCA has given me a different perspective on what it means to ìsell someoneî on an idea. Here our efforts begin and end with prayer. We meet once a week to pray as a group. We ask for Godís assistance in opening the hearts of the pastors that we contact, asking for permission to visit their parish to present the work of CFCA. These prayers are a powerful source of the energy that we need to make the calls.

The Kansas parish contact team prays as a group.

The parish contact team praying for successful phone calls. From left to right: Vicki, Al, Joan, Cathy, Jim and Adrian

I am encouraged by the kind words of the people that I work with from other departments. They recognize how difficult it is to make call after call every day. That acknowledgment gives me hope. Most people would acknowledge that they wouldnít want to do what we do, with comments like, ìI could never do thatî or ìI admire your determination, I wouldnít be able to keep calling if I got turned down.î

God gives us all unique charisms. The members of the call team have all been blessed with the ability to handle rejection and keep going. Each of us has a different way of motivating ourselves to make the next call. The wonderful ladies from the call team in Florida who are much more experienced at this have taught us a lot. They tell us ì’No’ means no today.î And they are right: I have called pastors a year after they turned us down, and they have invited us to come to their parish.

We always keep in mind the integrity of CFCA and what it means to protect that image. As a sales person, you are always trying to find different ways to overcome objections. As one representing CFCA to the Catholic community in America, we want to do everything possible to show the priests and parishioners that, above all else, CFCA is a worldwide community of compassion and service, as our mission statement explains.

We are working for the children, youth and elderly and keeping that in mind helps us stay focused. Being human, we complain if the work area is too hot or too cold. We get discouraged and tired. But, all it takes is to look at the face of one of those waiting to be sponsored or of the sponsored individuals we have helped in the pictures around the office, and we are reminded of how important the work is.

Calling busy parish pastors to get our presenter priests invited to share the message of CFCA is not easy, but it is a labor of love. And when we are able to ring the bell indicating a priest has been invited, we celebrate with great joy knowing that we did the work, but God accomplished it.

This is the first of four entries in the parish contact series. Read more here:
Part 2: Learning is an evolution
Part 3: ‘Lord, … help me do your work’
Part 4: Every time a bell rings, a child gets closer to sponsorship

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