I am blessed.
That’s the message Catholics in the Diocese of Calgary recently shared in an effort to help each other do Christ’s work while simultaneously easing winter’s biting nip.
The message was the theme of what the Diocese called, The Blessed Test. Started by staff at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, the test was designed to promote a culture of gratitude and giving on days when the secular world focused on consumerism.
The strategic roll-out of the program was simple. To participate, the diocese asked people to post a social media photo or video with the message, “I am blessed.” The post had to include a few details about why the person felt blessed, along with a message about how they will bless others with donations, acts of kindness or prayers. The campaign adopted the hashtag, #iamblessed.
The challenge was launched during the shopping frenzy of Black Friday Nov. 19. It’s a U.S. tradition that has an increasingly large impact on Canadian consumer markets. The message was widely shared again on Cyber Monday and the day before Advent 2019 began. Calls for more “I am blessed” messages were repeated on Boxing Day.
Within the first week of the campaign, more than 4,000 people viewed and shared the campaign video. Days after the first posts, Calgarians across the diocese started to participate. Priests and parishioners of all ages, from students to grandparents, began posting pictures and “I am blessed” messages from across southern Alberta.
Students in private and public Catholic Schools across the diocese also joined the campaign.
High school students at Clearwater Academy posted a video of students pledging to bless others. At St. Monica School teachers sent “I am blessed” postcards to their students. “I liked that this postcard campaign linked to our faith,” said Jennifer Gakis, the school’s principal.
Catholics in all 68 parishes were encouraged to participate, with many posting #iamblessed pictures and videos in their own social media feeds. In the end, hundreds of #iamblessed postcards were shared throughout the Christmas season.
The campaign is also credited for a surge in financial gifts to the parishes. In two months, the campaign raised more than $70,000 in additional donations to parishes and diocesan programs.
“We were seeing an increase in the number of online donations every week,” says Alejandro Henao, executive director at the Catholic Pastoral Centre. “We were seeing donations from people who had never given to our ministry before.”
“We were inspired by people’s generosity,” said Calgary Bishop William McGrattan, who also participated in the social media campaign. “It showed how the gift of faith, which when expressed in acts of charity, kindness and mercy can transform our parishes and diocese.”
The social media campaign was so successful, it will become an annual event.
-Joy Gregory is a writer with the Diocese of Calgary, which originally published this story.