Fr. Edward Cappelletti, Religious Fundraising Leader, Has Died

Fr. Edward Cappelletti, former director of the Salesian Missions in New Rochelle, N.Y., has died. He was 93.

Representatives from Salesian Missions could not immediately be reached for comment. Via a statement on its website, organizational officials said: “The whole Congregation is very grateful to Fr. Edward Cappelletti for all that he did through the mission office to help our missionaries to make their dreams come true, the dream of Don Bosco, the dream of God, who loves and cares with predilection for the poorest and most abandoned. May the Lord fill him with joy, peace, light, and new life of His Resurrection. On the behalf of the Congregation, I say a big thanks from the bottom of our heart to Fr. Edward for his generosity and total devotion to the missions.”

Fr. Cappelletti died on Dec. 12. Details were not immediately available.

The Salesian Missions helps poverty-stricken children around the world through education. Founded in 1859, it is active in 130 countries and runs nearly 4,000 education centers, trade schools, hospitals and orphanages. Cappelletti grew the Salesian Missions into an organization with revenue of more than $25 million and a donor base of approximately 1 million.

“Father Edward was really a pioneer,” said Chris Ragusa, president and CEO of Estee Marketing Group in Rye, N.Y. “He came to the Salesian Missions (in the 1950s) when the office had three people.”

According to Sr. Georgette Lehmuth, president and CEO of the National Catholic Development Conference (NCDC) in Hempstead, N.Y., “He was a pioneer in great direct marketing programs, in building relationships with donors, not just seeking money. He really had a gift of making people feel like partners. Some of the things we do in fundraising now that are best practices, he was doing 40 years ago.”

According to Lehmuth, Fr. Cappelletti was a founding member of NCDC. “What that means is that Fr. Ed had the vision to take the mission of the Salesian Fathers, which is to serve the poor all over the world, and to engage others in the United States in the mission of this group,” she said. “NCDC was founded at a meeting of the Catholic Press Association, where all these fundraising guys were going because that was the closest thing they had. They realized that Catholic fundraising, to become a viable ministry, needed its own place to gather and educate themselves, and he had that vision as well.”

Geoffrey Peters, president of CDR Fundraising Group in Bowie, Md., said that Fr. Cappelletti “was smart, funny, knowledgeable, and a great fundraiser. I always wished some other priests with fundraising responsibilities would learn from him.”

Lehmuth called him a “wisdom figure” and said his career was characterized by a willingness to share his expertise. “A lot of folks starting out in fundraising could go to Father Ed and he was more than happy to share his insights and skills,” said Lehmuth.

Ragusa said she had known Fr. Cappelletti since she was young. “He was an ideas guy, a thinker,” said Ragusa. “He was the kind of guy who would come up with 10 crazy ideas and one or two of them would be brilliant.”

Fr. Cappelletti would have been most proud of the success of the mission office, said Ragusa. Fundraising and spreading the word of the Salesians’ mission “was his strength and he did such a good job of it,” said Ragusa. “He spearheaded the use of direct mail and fundraising in his organization and grew the organization to what it is today.”

“He was really true to his work,” said Ragusa. “He really helped millions of poor around the world.”

His wake is scheduled for today at the Salesian High School Chapel
 from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. Rosary will be said at 7:30 p.m. A mass of Christian Burial
 will be held at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at Holy Name of Jesus Church,
70 Petersville Rd., New Rochelle, N.Y.