Back in November, we ran a “Giving Tuesday” campaign to support our prison outreach, where we send calendars to inmates in prison. A few days ago I asked our development coordinator, Fr. Justin Whittington, for a summary of how that went. He replied:
So far we have sent out 244 calendars to inmates. 100 have been sent to chaplains at US prisons to be distributed. Thirty went to Fr. Gabriele Gionti for distribution at a Roman prison. So far 114 have been sent to individuals at 14 different institutions.
Our 2020 Giving Tuesday campaign brought in $1150.00 through 17 donations. We have also received 44 Forever stamps (worth $24.20) as donations from inmates who were requesting Calendars.
Since then, I know we have sent out more calendars. It’s an important part of our outreach; I know that Pope Francis was interested to hear about it. Your donations came to about $10 per calendar, which is a pretty good return. It goes a long way to covering our costs for the program. Thanks!
(And of course, even though it is now a month into 2021 you can still support us and get a beautiful calendar by clicking here!)
In other news, I remind you again that Dr. Michelle Francl will be our guest on Thursday’s “Moonthly” Meet Up, January 28, at 10am Tucson Time/noon EDT. We’ve sent out a link to our Sacred Space subscribers; if you sign up for Sacred Space now you can join us as well, and find the information about how to join here.
Speaking of subscribers… it’s been a couple of months since I last updated where our subscriptions figures are. As of the end of November we had 198 members of Sacred Space; now that has grown to 205. Welcome everyone! And we have added a whole bunch of new folks who get notified of new postings. How many? Hard to say. In November that number was 10,591; the current number is 17,655! Why the big jump? Well, most of it is artificial. We used to include all the people who subscribed to the Foundation’s Twitter feed, but we are phasing that feed out now — I’ve stopped posting new items there — in favor of the Twitter feed for the Vatican Observatory itself, @VaticanObserv… which today has 6,000 more subscribers than the Foundation feed. But even accounting for that difference, it’s still a growth of about 1,000 new followers. Welcome everybody!
Tell more people about our site! And if you can, please join the Sacred Space gang at a rate of $10 a month (about the cost of a burger and fries, and you don’t have to pay for home delivery) or $100 per year.
That shift from the Foundation Twitter account to the Observatory account is part of bigger changes that are coming soon, namely a complete revamping of our web presence! We have been working like mad…
[In order to read the rest of this post, you have to be a paid-up member of Sacred Space, and logged in as such!]
…to get ready for a launch in February. Rather than tease you with images of what it will look like (you’ll see soon enough) I want to give you, our faithful supporters, a sense of what we are doing and why.
The first big change is that the basic web site domain will no longer be “vaticanobservatory.org” since, to be honest, that doesn’t mean much to anyone who doesn’t know that there is a “VO – Foundation”… heck, most people don’t even know that there is a “VO” (Vatican Observatory). So instead we’ll soon be found at www.VaticanObservatory.org . Note the “.org” at the end; that’s what makes the Foundation separate from the official Vatican web site, which is hosted at the Vatican at www.VaticanOobservatory.va . We will continue to support the old address, so you can still find us, but it will just forward to our new quarters.
The next change of note is that we will be expanding and altering our Sacred Space program. There will be a basic, bare-bones version available at $5 per month, which you can join with a simple click. But for the rest of you who are already members, the program will now come with new perks including discounts at an online store where you can get the usual goodies (coffee mugs, tee shirts, etc.). It’s our way of saying thanks… and of getting you to spread the word about us since the goodies will come with our name and logo!
We are also going to boost the cost of the Andromeda level to $250 a month, but we will “grandfather” in those of you who have joined at the current levels; you get to stay at the level you are already paying. The hope is that astronomy clubs may want to join at this level, and then distribute the various goodies that come with this level among their membership.
Finally, you will discover a whole lot of new material on this site, including lots of photos, a lot of detail about our telescopes and the science we do with them, improved access to our Faith and Science resource site, and so much more. I am really, really excited about it. I hope you like it, too!