CSA_EaselST. FRANCIS — The Catholic Stewardship Appeal is always a priority for the archbishop, but this year, he admitted it has taken on even more importance.

Not only is it crucial that the appeal reach its $7.65 million goal, which will allow the archdiocese to continue meeting needs and funding ministries, said the archbishop, but he’d also like to see the appeal be successful as a vote of confidence in the church during this time of financial reorganization.

“I think it’s very important this year that the CSA achieve its goals,” said Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki in an interview with your Catholic Herald about a week before the appeal was to launch in parishes. It’s important, “one, to make sure the ministries are funded properly, but secondly as a vote of going forward and making sure we’re going forward with a particular vision. I put a lot of emphasis on the Catholic Stewardship Appeal this year.”

In a written message to Catholics, he again emphasized that point.

“In light of the church’s current Chapter 11 reorganization, 2011 will be a pivotal year for the appeal. For those of us who love the church, now is a very good time to publicly demonstrate our belief in the church’s fundamental goodness and our confidence in her future. I cannot think of a better way of responding than being as generous as we can to this appeal,” he wrote in a letter  posted on the appeal’s Web site.

The 2011 appeal will officially kick off in parishes this weekend with the showing of a 10-minute video of Archbishop Listecki highlighting the many ministries which benefit from CSA funding.

In the video, which can also be viewed online at www.archmil.org/catholicappeal, the archbishop takes viewers on a tour of several sites in the archdiocese, including Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, St. Francis, where donations help in the formation of seminarians; St. Sebastian Elementary School, Milwaukee, where CSA-funded services and resources support the education of children, and Catholic Charities Adult Day Center, Milwaukee, where CSA monies in part provide care and services for the elderly and disabled.

“My sense is that oftentimes people don’t realize the importance of the Catholic Stewardship Appeal,” the archbishop told your Catholic Herald. “They have many requests for contributions, but the Catholic Stewardship Appeal is one way we are united to respond to those needs that transcend the local parish request or the individual request,” he said, describing the CSA as a statement of “who we are as a church. In that, there is a sense of belonging, all of us, to basically serve the larger church and its needs.”

Where does your money go?

Serving families…………………………..$2,132,636

Strengthening parishes………………….$1,824,258

Supporting schools…………………………$610,617

Forming priests and parish leaders……$3,082,489

                                                    Total $7,650,000

In spite of the archdiocese’s current Chapter 11 reorganization, Archbishop Listecki said he and his staff are not approaching the CSA any differently this year. He acknowledged that “in this particular climate, there’s going to be a need to demonstrate a tremendous amount of confidence in the church going forward.” There’s (the need), too, to make sure the ministries we are engaged in continue and the only way that’s possible is through the Catholic Stewardship Appeal,” he said, explaining he is appealing to Catholics to understand the level of responsibility to the ministries in which the archdiocese is engaged.

The 2011 appeal has been tailored in such a manner that the funds are basically restricted, said Archbishop Listecki, explaining they are restricted only for the ministries described in the 2011 Catholic Stewardship Appeal and those funds will be kept separate and used only for the stated purposes.

Debra Lethlean, archdiocesan development director, further explained the restricted use of the funds by pointing to a statement that appears on all appeal literature:

“All contributions will be used solely for the restricted purposes of the 2011 Catholic Stewardship Appeal and for no other purposes. The Appeal funds ministries that serve families, strengthen parishes, support schools and form priests and parish leaders within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The restricted purposes are identified specifically on the Appeal Web page www.catholicappeal.org.”

The theme for the 2011 appeal is “In His Name.” The archbishop explained that the main message is shaped around the Gospel.
“It’s always the Gospel that basically is before us. This year’s theme, ‘In His Name,’ we are hoping that people understand that everything that is done is basically in the name of Jesus who calls us to respond to these various needs, be they within families, be it needs within the schools, be it needs within Catholic Charities. It’s always connecting the act to the person that we are reflecting and that’s the person of Jesus,” he said.

Lethlean echoed similar thoughts.

“Catholics are called to do everything in God’s name and for the good of his kingdom, whether at home with families, expressing our love there, in our parishes, out in the community or in the workplace, we’re called to act and live in his name. The Catholic Stewardship Appeal is one of the most important ways that Catholics can demonstrate their support, their desire to ensure the ministries of the greater church,” she said, adding that by giving to the appeal, Catholics are furthering the work of the church.

To contribute
online, visit www.catholicappeal.org. Questions about the CSA can be directed to Robert Bohlmann,
(414) 769-3320 or bohlmannr@archmil.org

CSA director Rob Bohlmann noted that the appeal is one way that people can affect what happens in the church, especially at this time.

“During the reorganization, people might be a little skittish about giving to the appeal, but as the archbishop has said, the best way for people to support the church is to demonstrate publicly their generosity to the appeal and it is the best way to move the church forward,” he said.

Lethlean and Bohlmann hope to tap into what they describe as a “positive spirit” among Catholics. Pointing to the record turnout and enthusiastic spirit of the annual Campanile Dinner for donors who have contributed more than $1,000 to the appeal in early February, Lethlean said, “I think there is a positive spirit out there. Catholics really want to see the church move forward and provide for that to occur and we’re hearing it. The Campanile Dinner is a good example; we had 470 people attend, and there was a very positive spirit, a lot of support for the archbishop, for the church, for his leadership…. We’re hearing and the archbishop is hearing that people are behind him in moving the church forward.”

The appeal is coming off a down year, however, noted Lethlean describing 2010 as the first year in her years of working in this ministry that she experienced such a shortfall. The 2010 appeal, which brought in $6,753,000, fell about $900,000 short of its $7.65 million goal, although she attributed much of that to the sustained economic downturn.

Describing 2010 as a wakeup call, Lethlean said, “It does take sustained support to continue these ministries, so strong promotion and the encouragement of generosity is critical. People will give to what they are inspired about, what they care about, what they understand, and I’m confident they will respond.”