Some of the potential “world-changing” ideas in Catholic evangelization began as scribbled notes and diagrams…
Three Catholic innovators take home $100,000 in 2021 OSV Challenge
On Feb. 1, the OSV Institute for Catholic Innovation began accepting applications for the 2021 OSV Challenge. After narrowing the field from more than 600 applicants who were vying for one of three $100,000 top prizes, 12 finalists on Saturday had the opportunity to virtually pitch their ideas to a panel of judges at the Challenge Showcase.
The winners of the $100,000 prizes are:
- Catholic in Recovery, which serves individuals, families and communities impacted by addiction by blending the wisdom of 12-step recovery with the sacramental life of the Catholic Church.
- FemCatholic, which brings feminism and Catholicism together to launch a campaign to promote women through education, encouragement and empowerment.
- Red Bird Ministries, which systematically guides individuals and couples through the complexity and trauma that accompanies the loss of a child from pregnancy through adulthood.
Kelly Breaux of Red Bird Ministries, which is based in Louisiana, on Sunday said: “We are eternally grateful for the support of the OSV Institute, the University of St. Thomas, our mentors, spiritual directors, and our team. They helped us continue this work in prayer and trust that whatever the Lord led us through was holy and worthy. Lastly, to all families of child loss, you are not alone. Red Bird Ministries has paved a pathway for your family to receive support and healing through the Church. We are here ready to serve you.”
FemCatholic’s Samantha Povlock of Philadelphia said women have been essential to the life and the leadership of the Church. “We are honored to be named a winner of the 2021 OSV Innovation Challenge,” she said. “It speaks to the fact that there is a need to better engage women in the life of the Church and support Catholic women with integrating their faith in the modern world.
“Women have been essential to the life and leadership of the Church, starting with Mary herself, and we are looking forward to using this grant from OSV to reengage and highlight Catholic women, whom we believe are the Church’s greatest untapped resource today.”
As one of the winners, Scott Weeman of Catholic in Recovery, based in San Antonio, said the $100,000 grant will be critical to a new path that is needed for the treatment of addictions.
“Catholic in Recovery was founded a few years after my own spiritual awakening through the Twelve Steps and reconversion into the Catholic Church,” Weeman said. “We feel that the Church can save countless lives by integrating the spiritual wisdom of modern addiction recovery, the sacraments of the Catholic Church, and the strength of a worldwide fellowship. In the process, I envision a cultural shift where the Church will be the go-to place for individuals and families desperate to find freedom from addiction.”
The winners were among 12 finalists who were culled from a group of 600 initial applicants. Each of the finalists pitched their projects in a virtual format on Saturday to a panel of five judges. The event was live-streamed and viewed by hundreds, including individual investors and philanthropists who may invest in any of the projects presented.
The multi-round entrepreneurial competition is designed to accelerate unique project ideas in any stage from Catholics whose faith has motivated them to make a difference. After the successful completion of a six-week Accelerator Program conducted in conjunction with the University of St. Thomas in Houston, the round of 24 was whittled to the final 12.
Jason Shanks, president of OSV Institute for Catholic Innovation, said the entrants in the Challenge are going where the Church must serve.
“What is really apparent from the final 12 this current year is that they seem to go to the peripheries as Pope Francis talks about,” Shanks said. “They have identified underserved groups and audiences and markets that I don’t think lights have been shined on before. So for me, it renews this sense of evangelization to go to all ends of the earth, and I think that you get this sense from this particular 12.”
The OSV Institute dates to 1915, when Father John Francis Noll began evangelizing Catholics by expanding Our Sunday Visitor in service to and support of Catholic organizations. More than $80 million has been granted to Catholic organizations over 106 years. In 2021, the organization was renamed the OSV Institute for Catholic Innovation to reflect a strategy evolution focused on moving the Church forward through innovative ideas.
“There is no future, but rather, this is now,” Shanks said. “About a year ago, we pivoted and piloted the challenge, rebranded as the OSV Institute for Catholic Innovation; we really believe that this is the future direction. Some of that is the challenge, giving out capacity grants, and some of that is being proactive and helping parishes, dioceses, apostolates, and their work of strategic thinking, of doing and being creative. This is the institute getting out in front of innovation, trying to lead it and be a catalyst for more.”
The other nine of the 12 finalists and their projects were:
- Bendecida XV, which encourages and inspires young Catholic Latinas embarking on a coming-of-age faith journey. The personalized bilingual Quinceanera preparation programs support pastoral ministers as they accompany families to celebrate and participate in the liturgy.
- Cycle Prep, which offers programs that allow parents and daughters to learn about cycles and periods at various stages together by providing sound science, upholding the dignity of the body and honoring parents as primary educators.
- Dragon Slayers, which strives to inspire and equip parents to raise the next generation of saints through sacramental retreats, interactive resources, high adventure camps and their Saints in the Making University.
- Fiat Project, which is an eight-month discernment program that equips young adult women to discover God’s plan for their lives through prayer, formation, accompaniment and community.
- MyCatholicDoctor, which looks to make Catholic health care accessible to everyone through telehealth and a national network of faithful health care professionals. My CatholicDoctor’s mission is to build a virtual hospital that is pro-life and pro-eternal life.
- Perfect Love Casts Out Fear, which is a project by Life-Giving Wounds ministry to develop media outreach and online courses on dating and marriage prep for young adults from divorced or separated families.
- Quo Vadis Catholic, which focuses on recruiting, screening and forming young adults to live in intentional parish communities. It aims to support parishes by leasing underutilized Church real estate and transforming it into sources of spiritual and financial capital.
- Springs in the Desert, which is a Catholic community formed through the shared suffering of infertility and pregnancy loss. The apostolate aims to accompany those who also carry this cross.
- Tabella, a social app designed for Catholics to stay connected digitally to their churches and groups and grow in their faith through access to Catholic content.
Shanks said he is thrilled to see the challenge spark such innovation within the Church.
“In my view, I think it’s a game-changing, world-transformation type thing,” Shanks said. “Since I was a kid, people talked about ‘make a difference in the world,’ and I think that for the first time, I am a part of something that is legitimately going to do that.”
Joseph R. LaPlante writes from Rhode Island.