OSV Institute awarded three $100,000 prizes to Catholic Sprouts, Eden Invitation, and Juan Diego Network on August 29 at Demo Day, the culmination of a yearlong international Innovation Challenge designed to incubate project ideas that will make a profound impact on the Church and the world. Demo Day was hosted virtually and attended by more than 400 people, including fellow entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, Catholic thought leaders, and many supportive family members and friends. A total of 12 finalists presented their final pitches to a panel of expert judges followed by the long-awaited announcement of the three winning organizations.
Beginning last August, more than 350 Catholic entrepreneurs submitted applications for their “napkin idea” to be considered for the OSV Innovation Challenge, established in partnership with Catholic Creatives, Notre Dame IDEA Center, and SENT. More than just a contest, the OSV Innovation Challenge was an incubator experience for participants who aimed to think beyond the status quo and to view the Catholic Church through the lenses of innovation and creativity. Narrowed down to 12 finalists last May, Catholic Sprouts, Eden Invitation, and Juan Diego Network were selected to receive funding to support and grow some of the brightest ideas in the Church today.
“I am proud, inspired, and hopeful,” said Jason Shanks, President of OSV Institute at the conclusion of Demo Day. “I am proud of these three winners who, for almost a year, have worked extremely hard over multiple stages to get to this point. I am most hopeful for the future of the Church and am already looking forward to the next round of innovative ideas in the OSV Innovation Challenge 2021!”
The first winner announced was Catholic Sprouts, who won on behalf of their Domestic Church Project, a six-week in-home experience to help parents set up and live in their own domestic church. With content designed to engage the hearts of each family member, the initiative gives parents the system and support to teach the faith through story-based audio content, parent training videos, a family manual, and a parent guide book. “Being part of the OSV Innovation Challenge has changed our lives!” expressed Nancy Bandzuch, founder of Catholic Sprouts. “This experience has put us in touch with the larger Catholic world, a world that is filled with hope and truth. We are honored and humbled to be chosen as recipients of the innovation grant,” continued Bandzuch. “We will use these funds and these connections to work tirelessly to build domestic churches!”
Catholic Sprouts was founded in 2018 to help Catholic parents become the primary educators of their child’s faith, and thus build and lead their own domestic church. Their free daily podcast has been downloaded more than two million times. Learn more about Catholic Sprouts at their website.
The second winner announced was Eden Invitation, a movement for young adult Catholics experiencing same-sex desires and gender discordance to thrive as disciples within the Church. They were awarded the investment prize to support their Hearth & Porch Initiative which fosters local hubs for community and formation in cities and dioceses around the U.S. and to create evangelistic testimony videos to support and attract new people to their ministry. “This prize is more than money,” shared Anna Carter, co-founder of Eden Invitation. “It’s validation that people wrestling with same-sex desires and gender discordance are seen, heard, and valued by the Church. We’re incredibly grateful to the OSV Institute, Catholic Creatives, the judges, the Notre Dame Idea Center, and all of our advisors for equipping us to successfully bring our vision to the next level!”
Eden Invitation invites people “onto the porch and into the hearth” to find community and discover a lifelong love of Christ and the beautiful plan He has for their lives. One Demo Day attendee commented, “Eden Invitation is the only reason I’m still in the Church.” Another participant noted, “People don’t realize what this means to our community. We are not forgotten. We are loved by the Church, and Hearth & Porch will now be able to welcome more people into the beauty of a relationship with Christ and into the joy of a community of Christian friendship.” Learn more about Eden Invitation at their website.
The third and final winner was the Juan Diego Network (JDN) which creates, produces, and distributes programs with fresh content to evangelize, form, and entertain different segments and niches of Latinos around the world. “With this prize and the money that comes with it, we will be able to create and produce new podcasts of different formats, styles, durations, and content that focus on specific niches of Latinos, the largest growing portion of the Church in the US,” said José Manuel De Urquidi, founder, and CEO of JDN. “We expect to reach 500,000 monthly listeners by Spring 2021 and continue partnering with organizations and brands so we can fulfill our mission to evangelize, form, and entertain Latinos, who have traditionally been underserved or have no access to attractive and professionally produced content.”
The mission of JDN is to help Latino authors, speakers, and influencers focus on what they were called to do – create content – and not have to contend with technical and financial barriers. “Thanks to the OSV Innovation Challenge, we are now able to reach out to Catholic entities that have never done anything to really engage the Latino community, apart from just translating their website or adding subtitles to a video, and help them really connect with Hispanics,” stated De Urquidi. JDN also works as the Hispanic Focus department of ministries, schools, and dioceses that want to connect with Latinos. Learn more at their website.
“I am proud of the OSV team and partners who successfully completed our first Innovation Challenge,” reiterated Shanks. “I am inspired by these game-changing ideas and even more inspired by these innovators and pioneers.”
The idea for the Challenge was co-authored by OSV Institute and Catholic Creatives, a movement of Catholic designers, filmmakers, photographers, creative thinkers, artists, entrepreneurs, and others working to bring the gospel to the world in fresh, beautiful ways. Not only did OSV Institute pledge the initial three $100,000 prizes, but they also sponsored a 10-week Notre Dame IDEA Center Accelerator Program for the 12 finalists, which integrated a custom curriculum for entrepreneurs, spiritual formation, and personalized coaching from world-class Catholic leaders.
In 1915, Fr. John Francis Noll began the OSV Institute to extend the reach of Our Sunday Visitor in service and support of Catholic organizations. With over $80 million returned to Catholic organizations to date, the OSV Institute continues to serve the Church by supporting and encouraging innovative and effective Church-related programs and activities. Three areas of special interest for funding are Re-Captivating Millennials, Hispanic Experience, and Supporting Parents. In 2017, the Institute expanded its reach to provide support for new innovation and to serve as an incubator for new efforts supporting the Catholic Church. Learn more at https://www.osvinstitute.com/.