Vatican City areal view


 | Mark Gould

Pope Francis is the leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide, but he’s also big business.

Since his installation March 13, there’s been quite a flurry of purchases for a likeness of the 266th pontiff. Mark Gould, owner of the Religious Supply Center in the Village of East Davenport, said the most recent Google statistics show approximately 450,000 global searches per month for Pope Francis.

“He’s re-energized the church, in part because he’s new and everyone wants a likeness of him,” Gould said.

Church tradition dictates that every Catholic institution have a picture of the Pope in each building, similar to a photo of the U.S. president hanging in every federal building.

Gould said the race was on with the Pope’s election but it takes time to come out with an official picture. At first, Gould’s store was getting a variety of pictures that weren’t official. Manufacturers knew the demand would be high and were offering anything within days of the Pope’s installation. Gould has learned it takes about three weeks to get the official photo.

“His picture is our number 1 item, by far, in the store and especially on the Internet,” Gould said.

His store has about 10 different prints in different sizes, with prices starting at $15 on up.

Then there are people who want images Francis, whether it be a rosary with his likeness on the centerpiece and the Vatican sign on the back or rosary cases.

“Prayer cards are number 2 with folks wanting to say a prayer for the new Pope that he inspires and leads the Catholic church in the right direction,” Gould said.

A spokesman for the Davenport Diocese said it gets its official Pope picture through the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.

Jordan Catholic School in Rock Island purchased its picture from Gould for its lobby. But, assistant principal Sandy Carlsten said, since Pope Benedict is still alive, they’ve kept his picture up as well, in another spot.

Gould’s cousin, David, runs Lagron Miller, a religious supply store in Peoria. He reported an equal demand for printed images, “maybe even a bit more than the previous Pope.”

He said requests tapered off over the summer, but with schools back in session his business has seen a little bump. In Peoria, the Pope’s color picture can be purchased for as little as $8.

Mark Gould added that people are fascinated with the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio because of his South American background and want to learn more about him.

Gould referred to a National Catholic Reporter article about the Pope’s piety. Instead of living in lavish quarters, he lives at the University on the Vatican grounds with professors and students studying to become priests, having breakfast with them.

“It’s tough to be non-pretentious when you’re in such a high position but he seems to be getting that point across,” Gould said.

Full article in the Quad Cities Business Journal.


Football on grass with a crucifix


 | Mark Gould


Article by: Mindy Bak

Easy to want a glistening superman for a Gopher football coach, instead of a man who lives with epilepsy.

Easy for onlookers, like our esteemed local sportswriter Jim Souhan, to call for the putting-out of Coach Jerry Kill (“In category of health, Kill falls too short to continue,” Sept. 15).

Yet, is it possible that Souhan is actually a fan of Coach Kill? Is he clever enough to have baited hundreds of us into responding? See the 17 pages of online responses to Souhan’s article calling Kill’s battle with epilepsy a “sad” case. The column was a kind of moral low ground, a playground taunting that surely could only have been an attempt to have the public rise up and defend a good man and an excellent coach. Well done, Mr. Souhan.

Of course, as Souhan says, it’s horrible to watch someone else suffer. I was nearby on Saturday, in the stands, as Kill was taken down by a seizure. But since when has there been shame in suffering? I felt equally horrible when, on Saturday, Phillip Nelson winced from a hamstring pull. And yet no one wags their finger when a player limps off the field.

Life is dangerous. The most remarkable people I’ve known are those who have faced suffering and have discovered how to pick up and go on. Remarkable people aren’t born that way; they’re made in the transforming fires of struggle. It’s not what takes a man down that counts; it’s how he gets up. And the fight that’s in our coach is as worthy as his name. Tenacious warrior, ferocious strategist, resolute leader – Kill.

Of course, there are people who are outdone by tragedy. But there are also those, like Coach Kill, who from the depth of disaster discover a conquering spirit. While some succumb to suffering, others construct an unshakable life and indomitable character. These are the people I want on my team, any day, in any arena – not the faint-of-heart, weak-willed armchair quarterbacks.

If we were looking for transformed, conquering, unshakable character rather than shiny-on-the-surface idols, we’d be looking for none other than Jerry Kill and the cohort that has his back.

You see, this is the other thing about great men and women. They aren’t so star-struck by their own persona that they can’t share power. Too often, playmakers hoard knowledge, process and command. Afraid of losing control, they resist the process of mentoring successors. But the ones who truly leave a lasting impact are the ones investing in those who walk with them, empowering others to lead, capitalizing on the hope that great successors will surpass even their own giftedness.

True leaders, like Jerry Kill, are unafraid of empowering a brilliant cohort of leaders – people who can lead at their side or in their absence. Quite the opposite of alleged weakness, the ability to share leadership is a true measure of greatness.

Some scientists even believe that the neural activity present in a seizure, while damaging a portion of the brain, can actually create a corresponding area of giftedness (see Eve LaPlante’s book “Seized,” or neuropsychologist Dr. Paul Spiers’ writings). Among others, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Harriet Tubman and Theodore Roosevelt had various kinds of seizures. Consider, too, that Franklin Roosevelt, the only U.S. president to be elected for more than two terms, was physically bound to a wheelchair or iron braces.

Various artists and athletes also suffered from public and life-altering challenges: Stevie Wonder, Andrea Bocelli and Claude Monet were/are blind; John F. Kennedy, Calvin Coolidge and Pope John Paul II had asthma; Mia Hamm, Kristi Yamaguchi, Charles Woodson and Pat Summerall were all born with a clubfoot; Lou Gehrig had ALS; former Attorney General Janet Reno has Parkinson’s disease, and Bethany Hamilton is an amputee surfer and hero to children around the world.

All of these individuals had their detractors who would point and whisper, “Really, what kind of example is a person with a disability?”

Good thing there are even more of us who can raise a fist and cheer: “Jerr-y! Jerr-y! Jerr-y!”

Any day, in any arena. A remarkable man. A profound leader. A first-string warrior.


Pastor Mindy Bak is director of the children and family ministry at North Heights Lutheran Church.

Full Article.


cross in front of tall grass


 | Mark Gould

It’s not often we get to interview a loyal customer but when we found out what a man based in Atlanta was doing in Nigeria, we just had to ask! One of our most loyal customers, who goes by the name of “Small”, shares his story on building a church in Nigeria and how Religious Supply Center was able to help.

RSC: How did you find RSC?

Small: I searched online for “religious/church supplies”, RSC came up and it sounded like a good name. I went through the site and found it interesting and then contacted them on telephone.

RSC: What made you want to continue working with us?

Small: 1) I found the website very detailed and easy to navigate. 2) The product offering was also quite pleasing and met my requirements. 3) The quality of the products met my expectations and the delivery schedule was adhered to.

RSC: What has been the best part of working with our team?

Small: The quality of the products and delivery time really thrilled me. The sales people were also very warm

RSC: What is your favorite item purchased from us?

Small: Whoa!! That is a tough question. I loved every item i got. There were like they appeared in the pictures. I had some doubts and trepidations while ordering but was very pleased when I took delivery of the items.

RSC: What made you want to start a church in Nigeria?

Small: My late father planted a parish of the Methodist church in his neighborhood but could not put up a structure before going to be with the lord 10 years ago. The children decided to build this in his memory and dedicate it to mark the 10th year memorial.

RSC: Describe the process of starting your church.

Small: I think it to be an awesome privilege doing this for God’s kingdom. It remains the most humbling and greatest achievement of my life.

RSC: How had RSC helped throughout the process?

Small: I am so thankful to RSC for being part of this. The items added remarkable color and beauty to the effort. Thank you RSC for a great job. I will recommend you to many.

RSC: What are your goals for your new church?

Small: I desire that this church to be the epicenter of true Methodism in Nigeria!

A special thanks to Small for the exclusive interview. We are honored to have you as a client and look forward to helping you continue to fulfill your dream!


Grand church aisle


 | Mark Gould

Tip #1. Customer Service

The customer is priority Number ONE. Customers don’t need us retailers, but we need them. Be a servant and go the extra mile. Denise’s motto is “The little shop with a BIG Heart.” Whatever you do, make sure the customer’s experience in your store is exceptional. Get to know your customers by name; it makes them feel special and appreciated. Denise continues to say: “I don’t shop more than once, and I rarely spend money at a business that doesn’t give basic customer service. To me that means being greeted as soon as I walk in, receiving eye contact from the salesperson, and being asked if I need help in finding something specific.”

Tip #2. Reputation

“A good name is more desirable than great riches.” (Prov 22:1) A good reputation is worth a million dollars in free advertising. If you provide excellent customer service, you will develop a good reputation. Accountants call it Goodwill. It’s the reason customers keep coming back and telling all their friends and relatives about your store. “It gives me great pride that my mother and I have developed and maintained a good reputation within our community. We are now serving the third and fourth generations of our original customers,” declares Denise.

Tip #3. Listen to Your Customers

Listen to what your customers are saying or asking since it often turns into a great lead and an opportunity for business growth. Often customers will request items they’ve seen on EWTN, a religious mail catalog, or through a friend. Take the time to do a little research and find that special item. Offer to put in a special order for them and prayerfully consider carrying the item on a regular basis if it is being featured in a lot of other places. Most of Denise’s customers prefer to give her the business rather than ordering online. They do so even if they have to wait for the special order to arrive, as Denise usually absorbs the shipping and handling costs.

Tip #4. Product and Pricing Mix

Look for and only carry products that are of good or great quality at affordable prices. Merchandise quality and price directly affect reputation. Having too many expensive items with large ROIs will give customers the impression you are overpriced on ALL your items. Consider your customer base and their expectations regarding prices and quality. A few more expensive items are good to have on hand for those customers who are looking for something special and unusual. Again, listen to what your customers are saying, especially regarding your prices and selection. Most customers shop frequently and are very knowledgeable when it comes to prices on various types of merchandise.

Tip #5. Be Passionate and Knowledgeable about Your Business

Learn all you can about saints, bibles, scapulars, rosaries, and whatever else customers may be interested in. Customers expect you to be able to help them in spiritual matters of all types. So you must have a good working knowledge of the Catholic and various Christian faiths as well a little knowledge of Judaism.

Tip #6. Get Out There and Sell

Owners really need to get out from behind their desks and work the sales floor. Denise finds that most customers appreciate her personally waiting on them as it lets them know they are extra special. Customers really enjoy knowing they have access to the owner. Most importantly, owners need to get a feel for customers’ wants and expectations. Denise mentions, “I myself feel special and important to McVan, Inc. because the owner, Fred Adler, personally calls on me.”

Tip #7. Chase People not Dollars

Denise has a little adage that sums up all the above tips: “If you chase the money it will elude you; but if you chase people, the money will follow”. Anytime you put your customers first, you are almost guaranteed success.