“That was a big effort,” Bishop William P. Callahan explained about the last minute fundraising. “A lot of prayer – a lot of prayer – and a response from people who were willing to be involved with the archdiocese in terms of their charitable giving. We were blessed by people who saw that the archdiocese provides important ministries that serve our parishes, schools, and more – and so they stepped out in faith to make a contribution.”

The prayers were answered, as this response resulted in more than $700,000 raised in less than two months. The success of the appeal was made possible due to the collaborative efforts of many people within the archdiocese, Bishop Callahan explained. Although the appeal missed its goal by $43,000, it could have been significantly higher.

“People saw the need, people saw the way the archdiocese was responding to it, and felt that it was a place where they could definitely put their charitable dollars, and they did,” Bishop Callahan said. “There were some really significant donations that were given, from the bottom of people’s hearts and from the bottom of their checkbooks.

“People were extraordinarily generous, and I know it came from a generosity that only comes from Christian charity,” he added.

For Bishop Callahan, his involvement with the appeal is natural.

“First of all, I believe in it,” he said. “My involvement, of course, is that I’m one of the bishops of the archdiocese, and the Catholic Stewardship Appeal is one of the great supports of the archdiocese.” Saint Francis de Sales Seminary and ­­Catholic Charities each receive more than $1 million and many other foundational ministries receive funding from the appeal.

“Archbishop (Jerome E.) Listecki has made it very, very clear that through the Catholic Stewardship Appeal, prayers are answered. It connects people’s faith to the reality of what can be done. In one sense, it puts faith into action. That’s a big step.”

During the past year of staggering unemployment, Wall Street and auto bailouts, the H1N1 scare, and the debilitating housing market, the faithful within the archdiocese likely turned to prayer often to get them through the hard times. For that reason, “Answering Prayers,” was chosen as this year’s theme for the Catholic Stewardship Appeal, explained Bishop Callahan.

According to Rob Bohlmann, appeal director, more than 680,000 Catholics in 210 parishes within the archdiocese benefit from the appeal. Parish services, ministerial formation, clergy services, education and family training, lay leadership training, and social outreach are just a few of the ministries that receive funding through the appeal.

Another component to the appeal’s success is the Campanile Society – a group of more than 1,400 members from across the archdiocese. According to Bohlmann, these donors keep the needs of the greater church among their charitable giving priorities by contributing gifts of $1,000 or more annually to the appeal. Approximately 37 percent, or $2.9 million, of all appeal revenue comes from these donors.

Although Campanile gifts are vital to the appeal reaching its goal, they are by no means more important than the average donation, said Bishop Callahan.

“For me, every donation is the widow’s mite,” the bishop said, using the biblical analogy of the widow who gave only a little, but all of what she had. “Everybody has a sense of how they give and how they support charity, and so I would like to believe that people are looking and saying, ‘We definitely believe in what the church is trying to do, and we’re going to support it. We will give whatever we can.’”

At the Campanile dinner in January, Archbishop Listecki acknowledged that without appeal donors, many programs offered by the archdiocese would not be possible.

“Because of you, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has done well, in spite of significant challenges, especially from the economic area,” he said, adding that he had been praying for Milwaukee Catholics since Pope Benedict XVI appointed him the 11th archbishop of Milwaukee in November 2009.

“My prayer has been not that we become deliriously successful – although that’s not bad, I think it would be good if we did – but my prayer was that we grow in holiness, and the gifts that you’ve made (have) assisted us on that path: growth and holiness. So, thank you, you who have given so generously to the Catholic Stewardship Appeal in 2009, and helped us raise more than $7.5 million. That leadership helped to drive the success of our endeavor.” As of this week, the 2009 CSA had topped $7.6 million.

Fr. Leonard Barbian, recently retired pastor of St. William Parish in Waukesha, spoke about the impact the CSA has on the church in southeastern Wisconsin.

“The Catholic Stewardship Appeal is absolutely essential for us to get God’s work done in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee – absolutely essential,” he said.

Fr. Barbian praised two CSA-supported entities – Saint Francis de Sales Seminary and Catholic Charities – for the work they do in the archdiocese.

“If the Catholic Church is to continue being a sacramental church, we need priests. Therefore, we need to support our seminary,” he said.

Calling Catholic Charities the “agency that puts into practice the mandate of Jesus to love one another,” Fr. Barbian continued, “Catholic Charities is the social outreach arm of the church. As a pastor I referred many parishioners to this agency to have their basic human and social needs met. … that agency does marvelous, marvelous work.”

He said that in order for parishes and the archdiocese to thrive, the CSA and the “generous support” it received from Campanile Society members was essential.

“May I say bluntly, parishes could not exist without the services offered by the archdiocese – services such as catechist training, Catholic school support, marriage preparation, trustee and parish councilors’ training, liturgical assistance, ministry to priests, ministry to the bereaved, and all the work done by our chancery office…”

Noting that he had served as an associate pastor, pastor, as director of the archdiocese’s Catholic Family Life Office and as associate vicar for clergy, he said, “Without the Catholic Stewardship Appeal, my ministry in the name of the Lord would have been fruitless. I am so grateful to all of you.”

Debra Lethlean, director of development for the archdiocese said, “While the archbishop and bishops play vital roles in advancing the appeal, strong leadership and promotion from our pastors is critical to achieving our overall goal. We are grateful for our pastors’ partnership in supporting the mission of the greater church.”

According to Connie Coen, appeal chairperson at Immaculate Conception Parish, Saukville, for 16 years, the parish not only met its goal last year, but exceeded it. She attributed that to a number of factors.

“On the day that the appeal kicks off, I give a testimonial following the archbishop’s appeal. I’m involved in a lot of different ministries in our church, so I think people understand that I’m involved in the whole parish, not just one aspect of it, which is probably more meaningful to them,” she added.

“I think just keeping the appeal in front of people, and letting them know that the money is put to good use is important,” Coen said about the success of the parish. “The percentage of a parishioner’s appeal donation that goes to support ministry is very high compared to some other charities.”

For Coen, it’s not only beneficial to give to the appeal, but easy as well.

“(The appeal) touches on a wide range of benefits for people,” she said. “I think it provides an avenue for easy giving, too. It’s an all-inclusive kind of thing, and anyone who does make a donation can do it so easily. You can make a one-time donation, you can make a pledge and arrange for monthly or quarterly payments. The archdiocese is so accommodating.

“This year, when I spoke about the appeal, I included a little more as far as overall stewardship, which hopefully touched a few more hearts and motivated a few more people to participate,” she added.

James Fritsch has been chairperson at St. Theresa Parish in Eagle for the past three years, and decided this year that his focus for the appeal would be the young men entering the priesthood.

“It touches us personally because our priest will be retiring in a couple years, and we’re not sure we’re going to have another one,” he explained. In addition, Fritsch also makes it a point to use all resources that the appeal offers to parishes, such as bulletin announcements, prayer cards and posters.

For Rod Schueller, chairperson for more than 20 years at St. Peter Alcantara Parish in Port Washington, the example of the parish priest gave parishioners someone to mimic in their gift giving.

“I think we had excellent priests at the time who tended to almost do anything; they always gave to the church generously. I think the parish got into the habit of doing it (too),” he said.

In encouraging people to support the appeal, Schueller tries to re-emphasize the themes the archbishop touched upon in his appeal homily, such as Catholic education and Catholic upbringing.

Fr. Ralph Gross, pastor of St. Bruno Parish, Dousman, has witnessed how the appeal has helped support programs within the archdiocese. His 13 years as vice chancellor and chancellor taught him just how much work goes on behind the scenes in the archdiocese.

“At the Cousins Center, I got to see these different offices – people who’ve served the archdiocese in numerous ministries and programs,” he explained. “These are really committed people who put in a lot of time. They went beyond the 40-hour week and really believed in what they were doing and that is to serve God’s people and carry out the mission of Christ.

“Watching them and seeing how all the good that they were doing because of the dollars that came from the Catholic Stewardship Appeal … gave them their opportunity to serve the church. It was inspiring to work with those people … “ the priest said, adding that the cutting of jobs and programs within the archdiocese these past few years continue to affect those who work within the church today.

“There have been many services and programs that have been discontinued.… I admire the people who are there, because many of them have been forced to wear a number of hats in serving the church in a lot of different realms.

“We need to give them our support through the Stewardship Appeal and in other ways, because they are doing such great things that we could not do on a parish level.”

According to Bohlmann, several fundraising tools have been implemented to supplement the parish promotion, mailings, telemarketing and phone-a-thons and personal visits in order to help the appeal meet and exceed its goal.

“We added a matching gift link to the appeal Web site (www.catholicappeal.org), and noted in our thank you letters that we now have a matching gift option, allowing donors to double their gifts and make twice the difference,” he said, adding that while corporate gift matching has been available through the appeal Web site since last July, not many people are aware of the option.

An e-newsletter, “Stewardship News,” has also been created to highlight the ministries and programs the appeal supports.

“We focus on a particular ministry, what it does, how the appeal supports it, and other topics and things that our donors are interested in,” he said regarding the newsletter. “WE want to tell people how their appeal gift is making an impact, and how it’s changing lives.”

The 2010 Catholic Stewardship Appeal officially kicked off in all 210 parishes the weekend of Feb. 13 and 14. To date, more than $3.3 million or 43 percent of this year’s $7.65 million goal has been raised for archdiocesan ministries and programs.