MILWAUKEE — Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki had an opportunity Saturday, Jan. 14 to thank a group of people who are important to Catholic life in southeastern Wisconsin – members of the Campanile Society.
More than 500 of the 1,400-member society and their guests celebrated Mass with the archbishop and Bishop Donald J. Hying at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, and then got together for dinner at the Pfister Hotel.
Campanile Society members are those who donate $1,000 dollars or more each year to the Catholic Stewardship Appeal. Those donations comprise about 40 percent of the Catholic Stewardship Appeal revenue or $2.8 million of the just over $7 million collected last year.
James and Julie Lenahan have been members for eight years.
“We feel there’s no better place to put our money than in the Campanile Society knowing that it’s going to support all of the Catholic charities and works of the archbishop and the archdiocese,” James Lenahan said. “Everything in our whole life is surrounded by the Catholic Church … we’re firm believers in it.”
The Lenahans, members of St. Mary Parish, Menomonee Falls, own several manufacturing companies, Aries Industries in Waukesha and Ludman Industries in Milwaukee. Julie Lenahan is a clinical scientist working with cancer patients at Community Memorial Hospital in Menomonee Falls.
“We hosted a Campanile event at our house, a cocktail party and hors d’oeuvres party with the archbishop at our house and had over 50 people there,” James Lenahan said. The event was to get people to “try to give into Campanile or, if they’re Campanile, to step up to the next level.”
The Catholic Stewardship Appeal raises funds to strengthen parishes, support families, support schools and form priests and parish leaders.
“The ministries that are supported by the Catholic Stewardship Appeal, some of them simply would not be viable on their own,” Rob Bohlmann, CSA director, said. “(The Campanile Society) is incredibly important to the success of the appeal.”
Bohlmann said without the society it would be a challenge to raise the money needed for each program due to decreasing amounts of small donations. He noted that people who donate are excited about the church.
“I think that it really demonstrates strong support for Archbishop Listecki and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee,” Bohlmann said. “It’s that energy and enthusiasm people have for the church and Archbishop Listecki, and that event really honors and recognizes those people who give at that leadership level.”
The Lenahans said they’ve been active in the society at several different levels.
“We believe in the Catholic Church, we believe strongly in our faith,” James Lenahan said.
The Lenahans became members of the society when Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan was the archbishop of Milwaukee.
“We’re going to Rome; we’re going to be with him (at the consistory),” James Lanahan said.
They hope to have an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.
“(Cardinal-designate Dolan is) planning all of this for us so it’s going to be a great week, we’re really excited,” James Lenahan said.
The Lenahans said they look forward to the Campanile dinner event each year.
“I would classify this as a recognition night for all the people that contribute to the Campanile Society and it’s the way of the archbishop to give thanks to everybody,” James Lenahan said.
Mary Luljak has been a Catholic Stewardship Appeal supporter since the 1970s, when the annual appeal was known as the Archbishop’s Fund Appeal.
“As a member, I’ve met a lot of really nice people in the organization. I think the people that are here are devoted to helping the less fortunate of our family,” Luljak said.
Luljak said the society has even helped her on a personal level. At one dinner, years ago, she brought her aunt as a guest, to meet then-Archbishop Dolan. When she died, the archbishop extended his sympathies to her and her family.
“He’s a real prince of the church,” Luljak said. She said she’s gotten a Christmas card from him every year since.
This is the second year Sr. Kathy Slesar has attended, representing her order, the Racine Dominicans.
“It’s wonderful that it helps so many people and it’s such a broad approach,” Sr. Kathy said. “That’s one of the reasons why we like to help fund it, because we know the money is going to a lot of different places. It really makes a difference in a lot of lives.”
Sr. Kathy said it’s wonderful to see so many people invested in the society.
“It’s a good balance to hearing all the needs there are, knowing that there really are a lot of people that are doing things,” Sr. Kathy said. “It’s also neat to see what the archdiocese is doing.”