London diocese severs ties with Assumption fundraising company

By  Ron Stang, Catholic Register Special
  • February 29, 2012

WINDSOR, Ont. - The diocese of London has fired the company charged with raising funds for an extensive restoration and expansion of Windsor’s oldest and most historic church, Our Lady of Assumption.

In a statement posted on the diocese’s web site Feb. 22, the diocese and Assumption Church stated they were “not satisfied with the results achieved so far and have decided to end our relationship with” Philanthropic Management Consultants Inc. (PMC) to manage a $9.8-million campaign to pay for the restoration.

The 30-year-old Windsor-based company, which specializes in work with non-profit organizations, was hired in 2009 and PMC principal John LaFromboise sits on the Assumption Heritage Trust Foundation (AHTF) board which oversees fundraising. The board is made up of a who’s who of Windsor and the “patron’s circle,” an even more elite group including former prime minister Paul Martin, author Richard Rohmer and London Bishop Ronald Fabbro.

Assumption, located in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit, is a religious and historic landmark. The parish dates to the 1700s as a missionary settlement and the current church dates from 1845 but was completed in 1925.

Assumption has needed extensive renovations to continue as the future sole parish on Windsor’s west side as a result of recent parish clustering to address the decline in priests and demographic change.

The foundation’s campaign encompassed not just the restoration — such as repairing the church’s east wall, removing asbestos and installing a new heating system — but enlarging the church campus to include a heritage educational centre, enhanced public gardens and new “signature” front entrance.

According to the foundation’s web site almost $2.9 million has been raised in a campaign that sought donors from across Canada.

The diocese said it will “continue to build on what has been done.”

Assumption pastor Fr. Bill Riegel said the diocese and parish “weren’t really happy” with fundraising.

“So what we needed to do is terminate the contract — or at least give notice of terminating — and then do a thorough investigation and then decide in terms of the next steps we need to take to ensure the viability of the parish.”

But an unsigned news release issued the same day on AHTF letterhead accused the diocese of dismissing “the entire board” and said the board had registered its “shock, disappointment and dismay.” It also said the bishop “could not come to terms with the fact that the foundation is not under the control of the diocese” but is an independent entity.

Diocesan spokesman Mark Adkinson said the AHTF release was “factually incorrect especially with respect to the dismissal of the board” and that action in fact had not occurred.

Riegel said the bishop “had made the decision which was rightly his to terminate (PMC’s) contract.”

Glen Muir, a local realtor and someone who has helped market the campaign, said he “can’t believe how the church all of a sudden says ‘too slow,’ especially in this economy.”

Adkinson said he hoped the diocese would move on the campaign review — “the sooner the better.”

Riegel said parishioners are interested in “not so much the fundraising, they just want the building restored... they’re really interested in the viability of the parish.”

(Stang is a freelance writer in Windsor, Ont.)

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