St. Mary’s Rent-A-Saint Project

By Debbie Manzoni

At St. Mary’s Cathedral in Minneapolis, MN, our youth group, the FOCA Juniors, call themselves the “Saints.” Their “Rent-A-Saint” project was undertaken to raise funds for the OCA Christmas Stocking Project, but could be used for other fund-raising efforts. It consisted in the offering of various services by our “Saints” to individual parishioners who wanted to purchase them.

Since this was a new endeavor, we weren’t sure what type of reception we would get. We made the services of our “Saints” available at our Christmas Fair, which is open to the public, so we had to be aware that people who may not have been known to us as parishioners might sign up to “rent a Saint.” We were aware that there was a potential safety issue if someone other than a parishioner hires one of our youth.

This is the way we organized it. At our table at the Christmas Fair, we had a sheet for each individual service. At the top of the sheet, it said “raking leaves,” or “light housekeeping,” etc. Below, there were lines where “renters” could list their name, address, and phone number. They also listed the price they were willing to pay. (We specified a minimum amount, usually $10 for each service.) Beforehand, we gave a list of jobs to the “Saints,” and asked them to indicate which jobs they would be willing to do. Attached to each sheet, then, was a list of names of the “Saints” who would be available for that particular job. The “renter” could then choose a particular person to hire, if they so chose, and if they did not indicate a specific person on the form, we selected someone to do the job.

While our intention was for this project to be a silent auction, it turned out to be a simple signing-up to “rent a Saint”. Some jobs had multiple people signing up for them, so we just assigned a “Saint” to each person in order to accommodate everyone who signed up. That way, we were able to maximize our fund-raising efforts. Some 20 “Saints” offered their services. Their parents were all aware of the project; some even supervised the work. In addition to “renters,” some parishioners bought services as gifts for others.

A “Hands On” Experience

Part of the motivation for this project was to encourage our youth to have a “hands on” experience of helping people rather than just taking up a collection of money again. We hoped it might prove to be fun and helpful at the same time. Also, the hope was that some of our parishioners and our youth might get to know one another a little better through this project. Most importantly, we wanted to teach our youth to actually give of their time and talents.

Some of our “jobs” included babysitting, snow shoveling, walking a pet, light housekeeping, yard work, wrapping Christmas presents, help to put up or take down Christmas lights and/or decorations, car washing, window washing, simply visiting, teaching a new game, instrument, or skill, baking something, making dinner, cleaning golf clubs or shoes, pet sitting, washing the dog, grocery shopping, driving someone to an appointment (for senior citizens), mowing the lawn, doing a manicure or hairdo, cleaning out an aquarium or birdcage. We also had a blank form, on which “renters” could list any other jobs with which they needed help. There was also a “Jackpot Rent-a- Saint For the Day” for $50. However, there were no takers for this one.

The Follow-Through

We had some problems with the follow-through. The “renters” paid in advance and were given a coupon to “redeem” the service that they had purchased. This coupon had the name of the young person who would do the “purchased” job along with their phone number. A reminder form was also given to the “Saint,” which included the name and phone number of the person who had purchased the service. It was then up to the two of them to arrange a time and day to do the job. I think most of the jobs got done, but there are some that, to date, have not been completed. We did not have an “expiration date” on the coupons. I would recommend that there be one in the future.

All in all, I would say that the project was successful, and that we would do it again next year, but with a little “tweaking.” It took a lot of work to coordinate. It would be beneficial to have not one, but a team of coordinators, so that more than one person could make follow-up phone calls to make sure that the services were completed by the expiration date. It would also be valuable to have an evaluation session with the “Saints” afterward to learn their reactions to the project, and to get their comments and suggestions, both positive and negative. I do think, however, that the effort to encourage our youth to actually get out there and give of themselves was worthwhile.

Comments from Participants

From one who rented a “Saint”:

“I think that the ‘Saints’ had a wonderful project last year. I hope they will do it again. My daughters gave me a ‘Rent-a-Saint’ as a gift. They purchased a ‘Saint’ to fix me a
dinner, do some light housekeeping, and to polish my shoes.”

From another who rented a “Saint”:

“Alec, one of our St. Mary’s ‘Saints,’ signed up to clean my fish tank. After I made my donation, he called me up, and we worked out a time that was convenient for the both of us. I ended up with a sparkling-clean fish tank, and my money went to a worthy cause. I spent some time asking him questions and talking with him. It was great to get to know him a little better and to be a part of his busy world which includes sports, going to school, and hanging out with friends. I felt blessed to have been a part of Alec’s life for that brief moment.”

From a “Saint” who offered services:

“I think the “Rent-A-Saint” project was a good idea. We raised a lot of money for the Christmas Stocking Fund. We should do it again next year.”


Debbie Manzoni, a parent herself, is the Service Project Coordinator for St. Mary’s Cathedral, Minneapolis, MN.