Erin Berghouse and daughter. (Submitted photo)

It begins with a quote from Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki: “These are unprecedented times. We have never experienced anything like this. I need your help.”

Rise Above is the theme of this year’s Catholic Stewardship Appeal; and the accompanying video is captivating Catholics within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee due to its poignant message and compelling music.

Through various vignettes of children, elderly, the poor, imprisoned, religious and clergy, the video encompasses the message of Catholic social teaching and the mission of the Catholic Stewardship Appeal.

Video Producer Erin Berghouse of Apricus Productions said the video is God’s message working through her and came to her through prayer.

“It all came through the grace of God. He gives us all we need to be who he created us to be and nothing is of our own accord,” she said. “Anytime I take on a project, it begins and ends with prayer. I do a lot of nonprofit work, so when the archdiocese approached me, I discerned whether I could take this on or not, but God has a way of making things clear.”

Berghouse said the video is a reflection of who she is as a Catholic woman and musician. She has written her own songs since her late father gave her a guitar in high school.

“When they approached me, they knew I was really different,” she said. “As with any artist, I believe art is a reflection of an artist’s soul. With every work of art, you are getting something different. My great blessing is to learn and ready my soul to be edified to serve God. What a blessing it was to meet the people at the CSA and the archdiocese who give their lives to serve God. I had to pray about what God wanted me to communicate to his people.”

One of the more touching aspects of the video is Berghouse’s use of children, some of whom belong to her parish, St. Jerome in Oconomowoc, or from St. Dominic Parish in Brookfield.

“Both parishes were amazingly kind and generous to allow us to do that,” she said. “The children are the heroes.”

The video includes an Apostolic blessing from Archbishop Listecki, and Berghouse said she and her children feel especially blessed as they were able to “receive the blessing” numerous times while she edited the video.

Greg Recker, CSA Parish Advocate for St. Lawrence Parish in Hartford, said the video seemed to captivate the attention of the parishioners and helped make the request for contributions a bit more understandable.

“I was standing at the pulpit while the DVD played and could see the congregation was not fidgeting like they normally would and, instead, very attentive and respectful,” he said. “The music was powerful enough that there were tears in the eyes of some, including the Advocate (me). Maybe this virus has awakened all of us just a little more and made us aware of the need that exists everywhere.”

Recker said his role was to provide a short follow up explaining the numbers behind the need.

“We have 191 parishes within a 10-county area; 102 Catholic Schools with 26,000 plus students; over 500,000 people and over 200,000 households benefiting in some manner from a healthy archdiocese,” he said. “Then I asked that those who have not contributed in the past do so this time by examining their hearts and that everyone ‘Rise Up.’”

Dcn. Sandy Sites, parish director of Good Shepherd and St. James parishes in Menomonee Falls, spent more than 20 years of his former life in the video production business. He was stunned when he viewed the 2021 CSA Rise Up video.

“Given my background, I was blown away by the editing and production value of the video itself, was inspired by the original music, and marveled at the work of the creative team who so skillfully crafted the content,” he said. “We showed the video at our Masses and in each case, by the end of the video when asked ‘will you raise your hands,’ the assembly raised their hands unsolicited. Given the general social justice focus, the reference to helping parishes and Catholic schools, the appeal for formation at our seminary, assisting the homeless, and other important archdiocesan ministries, I am psyched and foresee a generous response. Well done one and all — (and I) loved the children.”

Katie McGaver, member of St. Anthony on the Lake in Pewaukee, said this was the first year she and her husband donated to the CSA, and she believes it was the video that moved them to do so.

“We donate to our parish and a handful of other Catholic charities, missions and ministries we are passionate about,” she said. “We found the Catholic Stewardship Appeal message breathtakingly beautiful. Both my husband and I left Mass commenting that it was unlike any other we had seen before. Rather than a litany of what the Church does and a blunt call for money, it seemed to speak to the heart of the matter. Our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially amid the pandemic, are suffering in our midst.”

Several years ago, meningitis plunged McGaver into physical, emotional and spiritual darkness, job loss, disability and a loss of identity. Despite this, she said the light of Christ shone in their midst.

“God beckoned me forth from that dark chapter in a myriad of ways the years following; but always leading back and deeper into his merciful Love-Light, held within the gift of His Church,” she said.

As McGaver watched the video, she reflected on the ways she and her husband have been called to “raise their hands to love.”

The Catholic Stewardship Appeal is a year-long campaign from Feb. 1-Jan. 31, 2022. This year’s goal is $8.1 million.

According to Jenny Mandenhall, CSA director, the need is especially great this year.

“With the growing unemployment rate, we have to find new donors and existing donors that can help at a higher level in order to meet the goal of the Catholic Stewardship Appeal,” she said. “We also know as people face unemployment, loneliness, or the loss of a loved one, many of our existing ministries face a greater challenge to meet the growing needs of Catholics in southeastern Wisconsin and the greater community.”

To view the video and support the Appeal, visit: