Maureen and Jim Stern, co-chairs for the annual archdiocesan Catholic Stewardship Appeal, have a simple message: now is the time to fund the priorities that were set out in the synod.
Jim said when the two visit parishes, they encourage people and educate them on the ministries and programs thatbenefit from CSA funds.
“When you look at all they do, you feel really good about your donation to the CSA because they touch the lives of 600,000 Catholics in the archdiocese in a whole host of different ministries,” said Jim. “This is our foundation.”
Maureen added, “We are part of a universal church and it is really our obligation to support the church.”
$7.65 million goal supports 32+ charities
The annual campaign, which kicked off the weekend of Feb. 6-7, hopes to raise $7.65 million to support more than 32 charitable organizations connected to the archdiocese. The theme of this year’s campaign is “Transformed by the Spirit.”
“As a six-year member of the Archdiocesan Finance Council, I have been able to see the money donated to the CSA being used so efficiently and have been privileged to watch the leadership of Archbishop (Jerome E.) Listecki,” he said. “We know that the appeal has been fairly stagnant during the bankruptcy, but we have seen how much work those in the archdiocese do. They have been asked to do more and more with the same or less money. These are dedicated people doing great work for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and they deserve our funding.”
Their love for the church and familiarity with the financial aspects within the archdiocese are what prompted Archbishop Listecki to ask the couple if they would consider serving as co-chairs of the event.
“This has been very exciting,” said Maureen. “We are working with a great group of people in the archdiocese.”
Calling them faith-filled people, active in their parish and beyond, Archbishop Listecki is looking forward to working with the Sterns on the CSA.
Committed to service on diocesan level
“They are active volunteers and committed to service on a diocesan level,” he said. “People like the Sterns are living examples of our Catholic call to stewardship. I am grateful to them for their confidence in the ministry of the archdiocese and in me as their archbishop, as well as their passion and determination in ensuring the many ministries of the archdiocese not only continue, but thrive. I know their commitment to the church and the Catholic Stewardship Appeal will inspire and motivate others to recognize their role as part of the larger Body of Christ in the archdiocese.”
Jim and Maureen have two children; John, 16, is a sophomore at Marquette University High School and 14-year-old Mary Elizabeth, an eighth-grader at their parish school, Christ King, Wauwatosa.
Jim is the executive vice president of AO Smith and Maureen is a stay-at-home mom. Among their many volunteer efforts, Jim served on the board for Divine Savior Holy Angels High School and volunteers with St. Catherine Home for Women and Jesuit Partnership; Maureen has been active with the Girl Scouts Marian Medal group and the parish pastoral council.
Over the past three years, Jim and Maureen have cultivated a friendship with Fr. Phillip Bogacki, pastor at Christ King. They are familiar faces at the parish where their son John graduated two years ago, and Mary Elizabeth will be graduating in the spring and attending DSHA next year.
“They have been active school parents,” said Fr. Bogacki. “Maureen recently served on our pastoral council, our human concerns committee and has coordinated several key service projects in the parish. She is often at daily Mass and is a key part of the devotional life of the parish. Jim has been involved in various financial and administrative aspects of the parish.”
Faith, generosity evident
Fr. Bogacki had suggested the Sterns as possible chairs due to their active faith, good judgment and generosity.
“Over the years, the archbishop has told me that he respects Jim’s presence and perspective,” he said, adding, “He has worked with Jim the past six years on the Archdiocesan Finance Council, a term he recently completed. Jim was on the finance council during the tough years of bankruptcy and his legal background meant he had a uniquely valuable perspective on the council.”
Fr. Bogacki added the Sterns also highly respect Archbishop Listecki and his leadership and are excited about the future of the Catholic Church in Southeastern Wisconsin.
“But they often express to me that this respect comes from real testing and interaction on the finance council and in other ways, and their admiration of the archbishop’s very sensitive pastoral side, something people don’t get to see every day,” he said.
There are occasions that Fr. Bogacki will utilize Jim’s corporate experience and good judgment as an informal sounding board or consultant on the administrative areas of the parish.
Competitive nature helps deliver
“I joke that Jim is ‘competitive’ when it comes to generosity,” he said. “I know that if the parish needed something I can tap that competitive side of Jim and he will not only get it done, but deliver more than you expected. Jim gave me my favorite quote when it comes to generosity, and I use it often: ‘God will not be outdone in his generosity.’ I have seen that true in my life and that of many others’ when we give sacrificially, God ensures we are blessed far more than we have sacrifice.”
Fr. Bogacki believes the Sterns are excellent co-chairs for the CSA due to their perspective of the faith and the church.
“Jim and Maureen are people of a real and lived Catholic faith. Their understanding of themselves as stewards is lived through the gift of their resources of the church, but extends to an active role in the life of the church,” said Fr. Bogacki. “They are always at Sunday Mass at the parish and even apologize when not there due to travel. Despite a very busy life, they take on many roles within the parish and humbly give of their time very generously. They do all this without seeking recognition.”
Post-bankruptcy appeal looks to increase donors
As the CSA co-chairs, Jim and Maureen are hopeful with the cloud of the bankruptcy gone, those in the pews will come back to help fund the programs and ministries run by the archdiocese.
“One of the things that we are struck by is that over this last decade with what the church in Milwaukee has gone through, the number of donors has gone down substantially, but the money’s stayed the same because of larger (donations),” said Jim. “We really want people to come back to understand their responsibilities to sustain our church. There are so many different programs that receives donations from the appeals fund.”
The Sterns are available and willing to speak in parishes to talk and evangelize. They hope that pastors and parish councils will contact the archdiocese and arrange for them to speak.
“We will go talk to anyone or any parish that wants us to,” said Maureen. “We have a unique perspective in that we have been part of the Archdiocese Finance Council and have seen what we have been through, where we are and where we are headed. We just ask that people will give.”