By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published October 9, 2008
As the 2009 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal campaign begins, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory acknowledged current economic uncertainty while asking Catholics to respond with their generous donations to support the ministries and programs of the archdiocese. In a letter sent to parishioners in the Atlanta Archdiocese this week, the archbishop stated, “Without a doubt these are challenging times both in our world and for our Church. … However, it is a moment like this when the good work of the Church needs your support more than ever.”
Archbishop Gregory chose a theme of light for this year’s campaign, explaining that “Jesus tells us how to let our light shine before people, that is, by doing good works that bring glory to our Father in heaven by revealing His love.”
The primary fundraising effort for the ministries, programs and services of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the yearly campaign provides the funds needed to subsidize the work of the Catholic Church in the areas of vocations, charities, education and pastoral outreach, among others.
The goal for this year’s campaign is $6.8 million.
Sunday, Oct. 26, is Treasure Commitment Sunday in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, when Catholics are asked to consider both their support of their parishes and of the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal and to make a commitment to help both over the next 12 months.
According to Steve Siler, executive director of stewardship for the archdiocese, “The Annual Appeal is the largest single fundraising effort both in terms of dollars and in terms of the breadth of Catholics it reaches out to for participation. Every Catholic in the Atlanta Archdiocese is asked to participate in an appeal that really benefits the whole church in Atlanta.”
He added, “My family and I give because we believe in and support the mission of the church. We’re Catholic, we love our church, and we recognize that it needs financial resources to function. That responsibility falls on not just the wealthy among us, but all who claim to be Catholic.”
Catholics will receive information about the appeal in the mail and will have a chance to see a short film at their parish that contains a personal message from Archbishop Gregory and highlights some of the ministries subsidized by the Archbishop’s Appeal.
Funds for the appeal come from the donations of Catholics throughout the archdiocese. Every parish and mission has an individual monetary goal for the Annual Appeal. As each family donates to the appeal, their parish family moves closer to its own goal. When a parish goes over its goal, 100 percent of the extra money goes back to the parish to be used for local needs as determined by the parish.
Appeal Supports Pro-Life Ministry
Among the various ministries subsidized by the Annual Appeal is the Pro-Life Office, which coordinates pro-life efforts across the archdiocese. The office is led by Mary Boyert, who attests to the importance of the funds to her ministry.
“We couldn’t exist without the money from the Annual Appeal. The $100,000 is a significant portion of our budget,” she said.
Boyert also appreciates the support of “people throughout the diocese … people who want to see this work conducted.” She recognizes that the work of her office is done “not only through prayers but through financial sacrifice.”
Boyert’s office develops, trains and supports the pro-life committees at parishes and missions in the archdiocese. She noted that there are “active pro-life committees in at least 80 percent of our parishes.” After recently surveying the work of those committees, she was inspired by the amount and depth of the work they are doing, and she’s happy to provide the materials and programs that they implement “willingly and with love.”
“I’m so glad to be here to help them,” she said.
Boyert also interacts with the state legislature on life issues, by working with the Georgia Catholic Conference.
She added, “I’m honored to serve on behalf of the diocese, representing the position of the church. I have found that the legislators respect the view of the church. They call for guidance. They want to know how the church is going to come out on life issues.”
Donations Support Vocations
Father Luke Ballman serves as the head of the Office of Vocations and is currently fostering about 50 young men through the discernment and seminary formation program. The Annual Appeal funds, slated to be $2 million for seminarian education, pay for tuition, medical insurance, books and fees and other related expenses for each seminarian.
“It costs approximately $40,000 per year to train a seminarian,” he said.
Father Ballman said, “I am honored to serve in this ministry because I know how vital it is to the life of the church. The men we have preparing for the priesthood are of the highest caliber. They eagerly anticipate the day when they can begin serving us as our priests.”
In 2009 the archbishop will ordain six or seven men as priests and about five men as transitional deacons.
Father Ballman emphasized the importance of this program to the church.
“The seminarians you support right now are going to be the priests that marry your children, baptize your grandchildren and celebrate your funeral,” he said.
Through the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, he said, “you can have a major impact on the future of the church in Atlanta, and the way in which the church can serve your specific family. … While many areas in the world today struggle with vocations, we are very blessed in the Archdiocese of Atlanta with many vocations. Since God has been so generous to us, he invites us as well to be generous in our support of the gift of vocations we have received.”
College Campuses Benefit, Focus On Future
As chaplain at Emory University and Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Father Bryan Small understands well the importance of the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. He said that the campus program receives about $125,000 from the appeal, all of which goes to pay those who work in the ministry.
“That subsidy is entirely for salaries. That includes not only myself, but our administrative assistant, campus minister and director of music,” Father Small said.
In turn, the operating expenses for the program come from the donations of Catholics who contribute via the collection basket at Masses on campus.
He said that the ministry is small but growing, with 125 to 150 students coming to Mass on Sunday nights at the Emory Catholic Center. Yet these dedicated young adults are likely to be future parish council presidents, active lay leaders and possibly priests, sisters or deacons, Father Small said. At Agnes Scott there is a new opportunity for Catholic students to be supported in their faith.
“Agnes Scott has a much smaller Catholic population, but percentage wise they have a high rate of participation. With the completion of the new chapel (at Agnes Scott), this year marks the first time that we’re able to offer a Sunday Mass on campus,” Father Small said.
This ministry is vital to the future of the church and supports Catholic young people at a decisive time in their lives, he pointed out.
“I would say that the college years are absolutely essential. The harsh reality is that this period is when we lose most of our Catholics. Mom and dad aren’t there to force them to go to Mass, and so many simply choose not to go. Some find their way into other religious traditions, but I would speculate that the vast majority simply become indifferent about their faith—relegating it to something that was part of their childhood but no longer relevant or applicable to where they are in life.”
Father Small runs the program on the campuses with the approval of the university but no monetary support.
“A popular misconception is that Catholic campus ministries are supported by their respective schools,” he said. “The reality is that the college or university may allow for the Catholic presence on campus and be grateful for the resources offered, but seldom if ever supports that ministry financially. In the case of Emory, Roman Catholics are the largest Christian denomination on campus, yet we receive no direct funding from Emory University.”
Michael Tigue, the lay Catholic campus minister at Emory, also shared his thoughts about the importance of their ministry in a letter.
“It’s just amazing to see how fast students can grow when they are open to the Holy Spirit and the power of God’s love,” he said. “One of the things I try to do here is help them become familiar with their gifts, so that they can walk into a parish and confidently move into an area of ministry. To me there’s a balance between continuing youth ministry and providing things for the students, but I also want the students to do things on their own, to be challenged, to take charge of an area, because that’s what they are going to have to do at a parish.”
Breakdown Of Programs That Benefit
The programs that benefit from the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal comprise seven major areas, including the vocations program, Catholic Charities of Atlanta, pastoral outreach, the Office of Religious Education, priest support and retirement, Catholic schools and mission development.
Following is a brief description of archdiocesan programs that will receive a portion of their total funding from a successful 2009 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.
The Vocations Program is projected to receive $2,150,000. Of that total, $2 million is slated for seminarian education; $100,000 will go to the Permanent Diaconate Office; and $50,000 will support the newly established St. Paul program, which provides assistance to priests who have moved to the Atlanta Archdiocese from other countries. The Permanent Diaconate Office prepares men to be ordained as permanent deacons for the archdiocese and provides ongoing support, educational opportunities, retreats and spiritual guidance for those in the permanent diaconate community.
Catholic Charities of Atlanta, Inc., will receive $1,250,000, for its varied programs, including the Family Enrichment Program, which receives $339,700; Village of St. Joseph counseling, $205,500; Pregnancy, Parenting and Adoption Services, $185,100; Immigration Legal Services, $176,300; management and general expenses, $132,000; Refugee Resettlement Program, $99,500; Parish Social Justice Ministry, $89,500; and Disaster Planning and Recovery, $22,400.
The Office of Religious Education assists parishes with age-appropriate religious education and sacramental formation, provides direct programs for some age groups and offers catechetical formation and certification, in Spanish and English, for hundreds of parish catechists. Under the auspices of this office, youth ministry will receive $150,000; campus ministry, $400,000; young adult formation, $120,000; adult ministry, $95,000; catechetical ministry, $80,000; multicultural initiatives, $55,000; lay ministry formation initiatives, $45,000; pastoral care initiatives, $30,000; and children’s ministry, $25,000.
The Office of Catholic Schools, which assists 15 archdiocesan elementary schools and three archdiocesan high schools by sponsoring a range of administrative, in-service and special support services on an ongoing basis, is projected to receive $500,000, including $450,000 for inner city school support, specifically St. Peter Claver Regional School, Decatur, and St. John the Evangelist School, Hapeville, and $50,000 for parish pre-school programs.
Mission Development, through which the archdiocese subsidizes, on an as-needed basis, financially struggling Hispanic missions to help them meet the pastoral needs of their parish communities, is projected to receive $200,000.
Priest Support and Retirement will receive $500,000, including $250,000 for support and care of retired priests, and $250,000 for continuing formation such as conferences and other types of education.
In Pastoral Outreach the following nine areas of ministry are subsidized by the Appeal for a total of $1.2 million:
– The Office of Family Life, which offers various Catholic programs for marriage preparation, marriage enrichment, stepfamily living, natural family planning, single parent living, and the training and continuing education of clergy and lay volunteers, is projected to receive $200,000.
– The Eucharistic Renewal and Evangelization program, which covers a portion of the program costs of the annual Eucharistic Congress held by the archdiocese, is projected to receive $200,000.
– The Office for Black Catholic Ministry, which provides works of evangelization, supporting the clergy in efforts to enhance the spiritual life of the black Catholic community and that of the larger Catholic community, is projected to receive $150,000.
– The Office of Child and Youth Protection, which promotes awareness of the problem of sexual abuse, establishes training programs, develops policies and procedures around safe environments for children and vulnerable adults in the archdiocese and seeks to provide in a responsible way a charitable and healing response to those who have suffered such abuse, is projected to receive $150,000.
– The Hispanic Ministry Office, which fosters a unity within the parishes of the archdiocese among the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities and serves as a resource for parishes and missions to meet the pastoral, liturgical and social justice needs of the Hispanic population in their areas, is projected to receive $150,000.
– The Pro-Life Office coordinates pro-life efforts within the archdiocese, develops, trains and supports parish pro-life committees and acts as an archdiocesan resource for information on pro-life issues. This office is projected to receive $100,000.
– The Ministry with Persons with Disabilities, which advocates for Catholics with disabilities to be fully included into the life of the church by providing individualized services and programs, is projected to receive $100,000.
– The Office of Divine Worship, which assists parish clergy, volunteers and staff with liturgies and programs related to liturgy, assists the archbishop in his role as chief liturgist of the archdiocese; and provides organization and support for archdiocesan liturgies, is projected to receive $75,000.
– The HIV/AIDS Ministry, which provides educational services to the community as well as spiritual support and counseling to those affected by HIV/AIDS, is projected to receive $75,000.
The funds raised for the appeal will be used solely for the programs and ministries listed in the Annual Appeal brochure and on the Web site.
Archbishop Gregory said, “The more people that we bring His light to, the brighter we will shine. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)
Siler drew a lesson from the day’s headlines to underline the distinction between bad and good stewardship.
“One way to look at today’s financial crisis is that it is the result of irresponsible stewards taking bad risks with other people’s money. Christian stewardship calls us not to be reckless, irresponsible or selfish with the gifts God has given us.”
He continued, “Instead, as stewards of God’s generosity, we are to put to good use that for which we’ve been given responsibility. We are to use our gifts—financial and otherwise—to serve God and God’s people.”
For more information, contact your parish or mission or Christine Heusinger, stewardship coordinator, at email@example.com or (404) 885-7277. More detailed information about the ministries, programs and services that receive the funds from the Annual Appeal is available at www.archatl.com/aaa.