If you’ve ever enjoyed a beer while listening to a formational talk at Theology on Tap, you’ve been affected by the Catholic Stewardship Appeal.

If you’ve ever received the Eucharist or been to the confessional of a priest who was educated at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, you’ve been affected by the Catholic Stewardship Appeal.

If you’ve ever listened to the “Two Guys and a Gospel” podcast or browsed the pages of a Milwaukee Catholic Herald, you’ve been affected by the Catholic Stewardship Appeal.

The breadth of the ministries whose missions are sustained by the archdiocese’s annual fundraiser is more far-reaching than most people realize, said Rob Bohlmann, director of the Catholic Stewardship Appeal.

“The appeal really has something for everyone,” he said.

The CSA raises millions of dollars each year to support ministry in four main areas — families, parishes, schools and priests/lay leaders. Within those categories are initiatives that include religious formation for everyone, from priests, seminarians and permanent deacons, to RCIA candidates, catechists, adults, teens and children.

That also encompasses the services of Catholic Charities, which impacts more than 40,000 people annually. It’s funding for intercultural ministries and the promotion of the Catholic faith within minority communities. It’s ministry to senior priests and support for couples living out the sacrament of marriage. It’s guidance for parish councils and evangelization on the campuses of public universities like UW-Milwaukee.

That’s a vast collection of ministries that, as Archbishop Jerome Listecki said in the 2019 CSA promotional video, “enhance, reshape and transform Catholic life in the 10 counties of southeastern Wisconsin.”

The 2018 Catholic Stewardship Appeal raised just shy of $8.2 million, exceeding its $7.7 million goal. That was an all-time high, said Bohlmann, and the third consecutive year that the CSA crossed the $8 million mark. The money was donated by roughly 30,000 households at various levels of giving.

And while it’s certainly never easy to ask families to dig deep and give of themselves, financially or otherwise, in many ways the task was made more complicated with the scandals and media scrutiny that rocked the Catholic Church in 2018. Public opinion notwithstanding, the scandals motivated some of the faithful to cease charitable giving to the Church in protest.

“I don’t know if it’s a concern, but it’s something we keep in mind,” said Bohlmann of the impact of the scandals. “We try to put the best case forward that we can — make people aware of what the appeal supports and make a sincere ask of them to support it, and leave them with the decision of whether to make a gift or not.”

It’s a fitting year, then, for the CSA’s theme of “Amazing Grace.” Grace, after all, pointed out Bohlmann, is not something that is earned or even deserved. It’s bestowed freely upon us by God, out of his love and mercy.

“I think what’s amazing about it is how it affects our lives, how it can change us and transform us,” he said. “I think it serves to remind us to be thankful, to reflect upon what we have and the blessings we’ve received and how we must share them with our fellow brothers and sisters in faith.

“I think it also speaks to how grace can help us become a more loving, caring people. It deepens our faith and brings us closer to Christ. That’s what we’re trying to convey to people — to think about all of those things, and to look within themselves and think about how have I been blessed, what graces have I received in my life, and how can I return that through my gift to the Catholic Stewardship Appeal?”