Catholic Herald Staff
“Expressions of Discipleship” is the theme for the 2019 Catholic Services Appeal for the Diocese of Superior, with a focus on placing one’s gifts at the service of others.
The appeal will begin in August and September in parishes across the diocese.
In his introductory comments in the 2019 brochure, Bishop James P. Powers says:
“It has been said that feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. The joy in our hearts from our personal experience in Christ Jesus is so overwhelming that we are compelled to share our blessings!”
For the 2018-19 campaign, the honed efforts of one parish – Holy Family Catholic Church in Woodruff – made a big difference for the diocese and for their own parishioners.
After a history of struggling to make the parish’s pledge goal, former pastor Fr. Aaron Devett “decided he not only was going to make the goal but also go beyond that and (take) advantage of the 100 percent rebate for parishes over the goal,” said diocesan development director Steve Tarnowski.
“He formed a CSA team that did an amazing job of communicating and promoting the CSA to the parish,” Tarnowski added.
Peg Billing, a parishioner at Holy Family for eight years, led the parish’s CSA committee. She said before last year, she didn’t remember hearing anything specific about the appeal more than the letter she would receive from the diocese.
Following the manual prepared by Tarnowski was key, Billing shared. They followed the suggested timeline of communication and worked hard during a committee brainstorming session to connect the diocesan appeal with local benefits.
In her opinion, talking about “what we see here locally” was the major factor behind the shift in participation and giving.
While they didn’t reach their goal of 100 percent participation, they did meet more than 45 percent and reached their financial goal much sooner than in years past.
Through communications at the pulpit, in the bulletin and mailings, Fr. Devett and committee members shared the benefits that could be seen right at Holy Family from the funds the diocese receives through the CSA.
Examples included a diocesan music ministry workshop held at the parish and a youth choir spurred by young parishioners attending an event the diocese helped to organize. Fr. Devett made sure to point that out when they sang at Mass.
“Showing the direct ties” helps people to see where their money is going, Billing noted.
Holy Family’s monetary goal for 2018-19 was $94,359. Their total pledged was $103,677, 110 percent of the goal.
Parishes receive the total amount given over their goal.
“It wasn’t a lot of work,” Billing said. “We just focused on it, talked about it and publicized (ongoing) information on it.”
In a mailing concluding the campaign, and inviting parish members who had not yet contributed to do so, Billing shared:
“Our Faith Formation program, for children and youth, is supported through resources, training, summer youth programs, and teacher training workshops throughout the year. Our hospital and homebound visitors, our weekly ministers of Holy Communion, our Lay Leaders of Prayer – all benefit directly or indirectly from training, consultation and resources provided by the diocese. Safe Environment training for all of our ministers and volunteers is diocesan managed. The diocesan Servant Leadership program is funded in part with CSA dollars (since 2011, Holy Family has provided both participants and the pastor as an instructor). Our parish staff interacts daily with diocesan staff.”
One of those staff members is Jamie Klappa, Holy Family’s director of faith formation. Her testimonial letter to Bishop Powers is included in the 2019-2020 CSA brochure.
Klappa shared how, in her two years in that position, “Although there are challenges in every ministry, I have been more successful because of the guidance and support that I have received from the diocesan staff at the Bishop Hammes Center.
“Every communication with diocesan staff has left me feeling supported, encouraged, and listened to. The diocesan staff, working with faith formation leaders throughout the diocese, (has) shown me what it truly means to love and guide others in God’s presence.”
She mentioned other ways she had seen her parish benefit from CSA funding: the attendance of two parishioners at the March for Life with the diocesan-organized group, adult participation in men’s and women’s retreats, the parish’s first-time participants at 2019 Extreme Faith Camp, and her personally benefitting from weekly peer group meetings.
Klappa closes her letter to the bishop thanking him for the “opportunities, encouragement, advice and support” diocesan staff offer faith formation leaders.
“Thank you for your leadership and guidance for the Faith Formation departments in our diocese; this leadership trickles down to each and every person in the parish. Strong Catholic families are the future of our parishes and churches,” she concluded.
It is this “scope of the appeal, and the impact that it has on so many people and parishes” that Tarnowski hopes can be transmitted in all parishes, similar to how Holy Family carried out their campaign last year.
He believes sharing the local benefits “demands an equal capacity of attention,” not only talking concrete numbers.
Tarnowski pointed out, “The common thread for any parish that achieves their goal is having a pastor that understands how important the CSA is to the parish and a team that thoroughly follows the tried and true process outlined in the CSA Parish Leadership Manual each year.” (Accessible on the diocesan website at catholicdos.org/catholic-services-appeal.)
He said his office is “here to help, and we work with any parish that picks up the phone and gives us a call. Asking for daily or weekly reports is common, and we want to accommodate the parish in any way to make the process go smoother and help the parish be successful in achieving their goal.”
For parishes with schools, Tarnowski noted, “In general, (they) receive a 50-percent credit of their fair share goal.
“However, no parish could exist on its own and support a school without the programs, services, and ministries funded through the CSA. Giving as good Stewards of God’s gifts is a joyful ‘Expression of Discipleship,’ and our parishes and school communities are defined by giving.
“A community grows stronger through a variety of fundraising and volunteer activities that celebrate the mission of Christ and perpetuate the Catholic faith. The school is touched by virtually every ministry funded through the CSA.”
Even though the goal is always that parishes strive for 100-percent participation – “because no gift is too small” – Tarnowski said statistically it is very challenging, because “only an approximate 20 percent of parishioners are actively engaged.”
“Percentage of giving to the CSA is often a barometer of parish discipleship,” he said, and his office has put their own money where their mouth is by planning stewardship events focused on discipleship and a broader sense of stewardship beyond dollars and cents.