Herald of Hope
This past weekend marked the kickoff of the 2023 edition of the Catholic Stewardship Appeal. Although this annual appeal has been around for a very long time, I still get the impression that many Catholics in southeastern Wisconsin do not fully understand the nature of this campaign. In conversations with the faithful, I have noticed that a number of people believe that the focus of the Catholic Stewardship Appeal is to raise funds for the administration of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Sometimes, I even sense some negativity, hearing comments that the Appeal exists to solicit dollars to maintain the bureaucracy of the Church.
Yet, in my own history of pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, I have found that such a perception of the Catholic Stewardship Appeal truly is a misunderstanding. All of my years of service in the priesthood have included ministry within a parish, and I consistently have experienced how the Appeal funds ministries, programs and services that have benefitted the members of my congregations. The Catholic Stewardship Appeal has provided resources that have helped implement or enhance parish-based ministries that have improved the spiritual life of the faith community.
As a means of illustrating my conviction regarding the purpose and benefits of the Catholic Stewardship Appeal, I would like to list a number of the ways that it has blessed my present parish assignment as the Rector and Pastor of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. You will note the assistance the Appeal provides falls within four key areas: serving those in need; supporting Catholic schools and parish religious education; forming priests and deacons, and fostering parish leadership; and strengthening parish ministries and promoting evangelization.
Some of the ways the Catholic Stewardship Appeal has blessed my assignment at the Cathedral include:
- Parishioners with needs of assistance through counseling are referred to the behavioral health programs of Catholic Charities;
- In addition to receiving assistance with meals through the parish’s Open Door Café and emergency help through our St. Vincent de Paul Society, vulnerable individuals and families dealing with challenges related to poverty also are connected with the outreach and case management programs of Catholic Charities;
- Members of the Hispanic community of the parish benefit from the services and programs sponsored by the intercultural ministries of the archdiocese with retreats (encuentros or reuniones) for men, women and youth;
- Engaged couples who will be celebrating their Liturgy of Marriage at the Cathedral prepare for the sacrament by taking part in a marriage preparation conference created by the Office of Marriage and Family Life;
- The support group for families experiencing incarceration sponsored by the Cathedral parish, “Doing Time Together,” is a component of the jail/prison ministry of the archdiocese;
- Catholic East Elementary, the parish school of the Cathedral and the Family of Four Parishes of the East Side, receives resources, instruction, administration, guidance and support as a member of the network of Seton Catholic Schools and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Office for Schools;
- The “Family of Faith” religious education and Confirmation programs of the Cathedral benefit from the resources, guidance and support of the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis;
- The affiliation of the parish with Saint Francis de Sales Seminary provides many opportunities for the seminarians to include participation in the ministries and liturgies of the Cathedral;
- In addition to our very own deacon, Tom Hunt, the Cathedral is graced by the service of a number of permanent deacons, particularly through their liturgical ministry at celebrations performed by the bishops of the archdiocese;
- The Office of Missionary Planning and Leadership has played an important role in providing demographics, data collection and analysis in helping the parish understand the population of its neighborhood and thus advancing its strategic planning process;
- The Vocation Office of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee was instrumental in assisting a member of the parish in seeking the discernment of a vocation to the priesthood;
- The Office of Evangelization and Catechesis provided instruction to a core group of Cathedral members interested in developing a parish-based intentional discipleship-making ministry;
- The growing number of young adults working and locating in the downtown of the city of Milwaukee and the students attending the neighboring colleges of the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are receiving the attention, outreach and invitation to become a part of the archdiocese’s Brew City Catholic program;
- As the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, the Cathedral hosts many of the premier liturgical rites and feasts of the Catholic Church like ordinations, the Rite of Election, the Mass of Chrism, the Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, etc. These solemn and inspirational celebrations are planned and directed through the service of the Office for Worship; and
- As the cathedra or seat of the archbishop and with its iconic status in the community, the Cathedral often serves as a platform from which he serves as a spokesperson for the Church. This role is fostered and facilitated by the Office of Communication, which coordinates interviews with the media. A major vehicle of both prayer and communication is the weekly radio broadcast of the 9 a.m. Mass from the Cathedral via the AM station “The Big 920.”
I think this list indicates rather clearly the manner in which the funds donated to the Catholic Stewardship Appeal are directed to parishes to strengthen and augment the vitality of their ministries and services. In my opinion, the breadth of the impact of the Catholic Stewardship Appeal is amazing in its ability to touch almost every aspect of the life of a parish, and, in doing so, it shows that the Appeal affects a momentous number of lives. This is why, for quite a number of years, the Catholic Stewardship Appeal has been and remains the recipient of the largest of my annual donations. If possible, then, please join me in extending your generosity with a financial gift to the Appeal. For this, I thank you with all of my heart. But, even more so, I thank you on behalf of the many, many members of the parishes of southeastern Wisconsin who will be blessed by the positive influence you will have on their faith communities.