Summary of today’s show: Our Sunday Visitor has been serving the Catholic Church in the US for 100 years this year and Zartarian publishing has served parishes in the Archdiocese for 50. This year those two companies came together to continue that long tradition of helping parishes in many ways. Scot Landry sits down with Kyle Hamilton, Terry Poplava, Chris Keiley, and Joanie Lewis from OSV to discuss the many ways OSV serves, from books, periodicals and pamphlets to offertory solutions, websites, and communication plans, as well as the OSV Institute, which gives back millions of dollars per year to the Church.
Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry
Today’s guest(s): Terry Poplava, Kyle Hamilton, Chris Keely, and Joanie Lewis from Our Sunday Visitor
Links from today’s show:
Today’s topics: 100th anniversary of Our Sunday Visitor and Zartarian joins OSV
1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show. Today’s topic is Our Sunday Visitor, celebrating its 100th year serving the Church in the United States. Scot welcomed Kyle Hamilton, Terry Poplava, and Chris Keely to the show.
Scot asked Kyle for a brief background on OSV. Kyle said around 1912 Fr. John Noll started the OSV newspaper. Later he became bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend and in an unusual move was later named Archbishop even though it wasn’t an archdiocese. He set out initially to try to inform Catholics about their faith and how they could fit into American society. At the time there was a lot of anti-Catholic sentiment. Fr. Noll met it head-on, going to tent meetings and traveling roadshows to stand up and challenge the anti-Catholic information being spread. He was very entrepreneurial, teaching what the Church teaches, but also starting the newspaper and offertory envelopes and more.
Scot said it’s not common for a parish priest to start an organization that ends up as a large as OSV or the Knights of Columbus and for it to last as long as they have. Scot asked Terry about the growth of OSV to what it is today. Terry said OSV has printed diocesan newspapers and more, but the mission has always been focused on serving the Church. The business tries to focus on two primary things: bringing your Catholic faith to life, making information accessible and easy to understand, particularly within their publishing business in print materials like books or periodicals or electronically, whether websites, ebooks, blogs, social media. The other focus was helping parishes with operational needs, within offertory envelopes at the beginning to online giving today. They also pioneered the use of offertory materials to communicate catechetical information to parishioners. They’ve also moved into creating curricula.
Scot said OSV is a very large not-for-profit organization. All of their surplus income goes into the OSV Institute to support innovative projects within the Church through grants. Kyle said this is what sets them apart as a 501c(3) which exists for a charitable, religious purpose. Through the years the business has changed in that there have been different growth engines. For years the newspaper was the growth engine. They had a publishing operation which was large, but it’s now closed. But throughout all the surplus income goes into the Institute. They have t here grant cycles per year and any diocese can make grant application for projects related to stewardship, education and more. On average they’re giving about $3 million per year back to Catholic organizations. The typical grant is $10,000 or $15,000. They made a grant of several hundred thousand dollars to the US Bishops’ conference’sCatechism office. He said there is a Master’s degree through the University of Notre Dame that the Institute has funded to send catechists to get degrees in catechesis and religious education.
Scot said three different organizations that received funds last year helped put on the Co-Workers in the Vineyard conference, help fund the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, which is on local campuses, and fund RENEW International, which help put on the ARISE and Why Catholic? programs in the Archdiocese.
Terry said in the offertory solutions business, OSV serves 11,000 parishes in the US. There are about 18,000 parishes total. OSV walks with the individual parishioners through life: baptismal formation materials or a pamphlet, marriage, the grieving process. OSV may be in the entrance to the church, in the pew, in a bookstore, or something the pastor is reading. They are touching the majority of Catholics in the US and many throughout the world.
Scot related a story about visiting his brother’s parish and how his brother had put OSV’s pamphlets directed at men on sensitive topics in the men’s room. He said those pamphlets are taken by many men. Terry said it’s a great idea. So often the pamphlets are in a display in the entrance to the church, but there are so many more opportunities to make them available.
Kyle said they’ve had a busy year marking the 100th anniversary. On May 5, they had an open house at their headquarters in Huntington, Indiana. They have almost 400 employees in 18 states, but the majority are in Huntington. They opened the doors to local neighbors as well as their retirees, many of whom have retired with up to 40 years of service, to show them how it’s changed. They had almost 1,000 visitors. They also had an employee and retiree picnic on site this summer, with a focus on the history of the company,
On September 28 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, they will host a symposium with a general theme on religious liberty. Cardinal George of Chicago will be a speaker along with Helen Alvaré and Dr. Scott Hahn. It will be followed by a massive celebration. They a cardinal, three archbishops, nine bishops, and 60 clergy celebrating that Mass. They will cap the year with an employee Christmas dinner to wrap up the anniversary.
Scot noted that we pray for Cardinal George, for whom it was announced his past week that his cancer has returned. He has been a leader on religious liberty issues.
Scot asked what OSV is looking forward to in the future. Kyle said this question has been part of their planning for the year. They wanted to acknowledge their rich history, but also to be talking and looking to the future. They’re looking at how technology can and should be adopted and integrated into parish life, whether it’s the way people give or the way parishes or dioceses communicate. It includes websites, social media, ebooks, online giving, and more. He said an interesting part of their history is that it looks like the business cycle, with the engine that drives the finances of the organization changing with the time. For instance, they don’t have confidence that offertory envelopes will have the same prominence in 50 or 100 years that they do today, so they want to evolve with the ways parishes want to communicate and relate to their people.
Terry added that during the open house they had an observation from the retirees who came back that the the changes they saw in the facility, they were amazed. While they don’t print many of their actual publications there anymore, they do continue printing envelopes and specialized communications materials and do much of the conversion and creation of materials. They’ve made huge investments in the latest technology and continue to update so that they remain very efficient and provide optimal customer service.
Scot said in his previous work experience he was worked in consumer products companies and he’s been impressed by the OSV plant floor operations. Kyle said they have two brand-new high-speed envelope converting machines. They make 1,600 envelopes per minute, which is 27 per second. They invested about $5 million in them. He recalled how one of the retirees stood and stared in awe at the operation of these machines, comparing it to the machines he worked with 20 years ago.
2nd segment: Terry said OSV has been working with the Archdiocese of Boston for decades providing both materials and services for websites and online giving. A majority, if not all, parishes have at least some connection to OSV through one of their products. They are serving about 30–50 parishes with envelopes and have rolled out their website and online giving offerings in partnership with the Archdiocese to a similar number or parishes. Terry corrected himself by saying that the number is now 200 parishes. Scot said OSV recently acquired Zartarian Publishing,which was the major offertory envelope printer locally. Chris Keely was the general manager of Zartarian.
Chris said the business was founded 50 years ago by Dick Zartarian, who died four years ago, and Chris has been running it since then with Dick’s widow. They joined with OSV and chris currently works with them. He too has been impressed by OSV’s operations and agrees that they are the industry leader. He said Zartarian just didn’t have the resources for all the new technologies that they see coming in the future. Chris thinks this acquisition will serve the parishes tremendously.
Scot said Zartarian wasn’t in the offertory envelope business to make money, but to serve the Church. He noted that the company often sacrificed on their end in order not to pass costs along to parishes. Chris said they agonized every time they had to worry about raising their prices. They asked their employees to do more and more and they often went without salary increases for years, but they eventually saw they had to do more. Chris noted that Zartarian too constantly gave back to parishes through sponsoring parish programs and events. He said that’s why so many parishes stayed loyal for so long.
Chris said he began thinking about the future of Zartarian and talking with people and after he met with Terry and OSV it became clear which way he had to go.
Scot asked Kyle why Zartarian was a good fit. Kyle said it’s the reputation and history. Fifty years is a long time for any business to be serving the Church. He’d known Dick and his wife for years and recognized them as a quality supplier. Kyle said the primary focus is to serve the Church and they felt like they could bring some of the new product and service offerings to benefit Zartarian’s parishes. They think all the pieces together are better than the individual pieces by themselves.
Scot said Zartarian was mainly in New England and New York. He asked Terry what he hopes this acquisition does for servicing parishes throughout the Northeast. Chris added that they did have 5 or 6 accounts in Arizona and even in one in the Bahamas. Terry said the focus is helping all of the parishes in the Northeast which has had a high density of Catholic population. By joining forces with Zartarian, they think they can serve the parishes even better. While it benefits OSV’s reach, the objective is helping parishes deliver their message to parishioners in multiple ways.
Chris said there was some shock from the 348 Zartarian customers in the beginning, but OSV was able to roll-out the switchover smoothly with the customary OSV efficiency. He said he was struck by their concern for the Zartarian employees. Terry said that from the beginning the idea was determining what’s going to be good for everyone involved. they wanted to make sure it was positive for everyone and worked out well.
Scot said he views OSV as one of the strongest partners for the Archdiocese. He said it’s moving to him that when a Catholic like Dick Zartarian decides to start a business to help the Church and to do so for 50 years. They have served well more than half the parishes in the Archdiocese. He wanted to take a moment to thank everyone at Zartarian for the way they have served the Church. Chris thanked Scot and offered an anecdote about some Catholic parishes outside Boston being taken aback by the Armenian name on the company, but Dick had a devout Irish Catholic mother. But in Boston, no one even thought twice about, which speaks to his impact in Boston.
Scot said we’ve talked about how the way people support the Church has changed ever since she began. Today the offertory envelope is starting to give way to online giving solutions and OSV’s solution is one of the biggest. Scot said OSV doesn’t just provide the tools, but also provides strategies for parishes to communicate to parishioners about the need and grow the offertory. Joanie said parishioners want to increase their offertory to grow their ability to do more. She helps parish’s plan for their goals and how to reach them. There are many tools they use including envelopes, websites, and print communications. For instance, they make sure that the same strong message is on the envelopes, in the bulletins, on annual reports, on newsletters and more to reinforce the message they want to portray.
Scot said OSV may be the only provider of both envelopes and online giving. Joanie said nationally that about 12% give through online giving and that has grown a lot over the past few years. Those giving electronically are giving of their first fruits rather than from they happen to have on Sunday morning. Online givers are planning ahead and they are giving 38% more than those putting an envelope in the basket. When people switch from envelopes, they increase by that amount. Scot noted that by planning ahead monthly, people can compare their giving to their other monthly bills and prioritize accordingly. He also said when people travel, like for vacation, they don’t put their envelope in, but when people give online they don’t miss a week.
Terry said very few people make up missed contributions when they travel. But when people don’t miss the difference is 10 to 20%. Scot said as more people transition to online giving, it makes it easier for parishes to plan. Kyle said the business manager or pastor can see the whole history of giving through the online tool and lets them look ahead because they can generally count on a steady level of giving. He told the story of a parish that had implemented online giving and after a tornado leveled the church, the giving continued to flow in to support the parish.
Scot said the Catholic Media Secretariat at the Archdiocese is always looking to help parishes stay innovative in communications. He asked Terry how he sees the newer trends in offertory. Terry said they need to continue to reach people to sustain parish life. They have to make sure that people recognize their giftedness and are able to participate in their parish. He sees much more openness in many different ways. He said a recent book asked why people give to Harvard, which doesn’t necessarily need their money, and it’s because they believe in what they’re doing. Offertory has to continue to be the ability to give in ubiquitous ways to their parish.