By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published October 15, 2009
In a recently released video message, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory urged Catholics in North Georgia to support the 2010 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, emphasizing the need to “nourish and encourage one another in discipleship.”
“All members of the church are responsible for carrying out the work of Christ in the world today,” he said in the video, which was shown at parishes and is available for viewing on the Atlanta Archdiocese Web site (www.archatl.com).
“And one of the primary ways that we can continue to live as Christ’s disciples is to use our time, service and financial resources in and through the Church, the body of the living Christ.”
Catholics around North Georgia will receive information in the mail about this year’s campaign, with the theme “Our Journey Together—One With the Lord.” This campaign is the annual fundraising effort by the archdiocese, raising essential funds for the important ministries, programs and services of the church.
Sunday, Oct. 25, 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.
The goal for this year’s campaign is $7.19 million, an increase of $390,000 over last year’s Annual Appeal goal. Funds for the appeal come from the donations of Catholics throughout the archdiocese.
According to Steve Siler, executive director of stewardship for the archdiocese, “The campaign supports the essential operations of the church at the archdiocesan level, funding operations like the Vocations Office, the Formation and Discipleship Office (formerly religious education), black Catholic and Hispanic ministries, pro-life ministry, and other areas like continuing education and retirement funding for priests.”
Every parish and mission has an individual monetary goal for the Annual Appeal, which is determined by an objective formula—8 percent of the previous year’s total offertory. 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.
Ministry Works To Bring Respect For All Life
Among the various ministries subsidized by the Annual Appeal is the Respect Life Ministry, which coordinates pro-life efforts across the archdiocese. Mary Boyert, the Respect Life director, has the mission to promote and implement the U.S. bishops’ pastoral plan for pro-life activities.
To do that, Boyert said that her office “supports the efforts of our parish respect life committees, which operate in over 85 percent of our parishes, as well as through ongoing educational, pastoral, prayer and public policy efforts. As most of our budget comes from the generous donors to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, we use the money to operate.”
The ministry promotes a respect for life through “suggestions, links, materials, support, ideas and liturgy suggestions” that she sends to priests, parish pro-life leaders, religious education directors and others working in the ministry.
October is Respect Life Month, and Boyert has been particularly busy promoting “Every Child Brings Us God’s Smile,” the theme of this year’s program. The theme was “taken from a message given by Pope Benedict XVI,” she said.
“While it is obvious how this applies to the unborn child, we are all ‘children’ of God, therefore every single one of us can bring God’s smile to others. This is a beautiful way to think about the dignity and value of every human life.”
Boyert noted that many of the parishes are sponsoring special activities as part of Respect Life month, including special Masses, life chains, guest speakers and participation in the 40 Days for Life prayers.
At the state legislature, as part of her work, Boyert also effects change by “sharing the Church’s position on life issues and how specific legislation under consideration might have an impact on the right to life.”
She added, “We also provide members of the archdiocese with the latest information on legislative proposals and encourage them to interact with their own legislators to help pass laws that respect and protect human life.”
Boyert said that donations to the Annual Appeal make a real difference in her ministry.
“As director of one of the ministries receiving some of the funds, I truly appreciate the sacrifices that this money represents. At this time especially, when so many families are experiencing financial difficulties, I truly appreciate the generosity of those who contribute so we can work to fulfill our mission.”
Vocations Program Funded By Appeal
The vocations program receives $2 million from the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal for seminarian education, including tuition, medical insurance, books and fees and other related expenses for each seminarian.
Father Luke Ballman serves as the head of the Office of Vocations and is shepherding more than 40 young men through the discernment and seminary formation program.
“It is expensive to train a seminarian,” he said, but “this is money well spent—the Archdiocese of Atlanta ensures that our future priests receive the best training possible.”
He estimates that it costs about $40,000 per year to train each seminarian.
“In addition to tuition, room and board, and book fees for the seminaries (each seminary is a private college or university, and thus has the normal expenses that a secular institution of higher learning would have), seminarians incur travel and medical expenses,” he said.
He appreciates the support of Catholics through the Annual Appeal.
“The people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta recognize the need we have to train seminarians to meet the pastoral needs of our growing Church,” he said. “We are very blessed with a large number of seminarians for our Church in Atlanta. The strong response to the Annual Appeal has helped us to prepare these seminarians to serve our parishes for many years to come.”
Siler noted that the “very successful” vocations program is expensive to operate and demands much support from Catholics. But it’s worth it, he says. “Who could argue with the value of such a commitment, however, as those future priests will be the ones to marry our children, baptize our grandchildren, anoint us when we’re sick, and bury us when we’re dead? We who are the church are responsible for making it possible for the church to continue its mission.”
Black Catholic Ministry Subsidized
Charles Prejean, the long-time director of the archdiocesan Office for Black Catholic Ministry, is appreciative of the support his office receives from the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.
“The Annual Appeal is the principal source of support for the evangelization ministry of the Office for Black Catholic Ministry,” he said. “This support was critical to us 27 years ago when the focus was building African-American Catholic leadership and involving more African-Americans in the evangelization ministry of the Church. That support is equally as important today, and certainly more challenging, given the growth in the black Catholic population, and especially the black immigrant Catholic population.”
His ministry encourages diverse evangelization activities at the parishes, fosters understanding among the different cultural communities, and works in particular with black Catholic immigrant communities to meet the challenges of inculturation in Church and society. Among the many cultural communities his office works with are Catholics from Haiti, Ivory Coast, Togo, Senegal, Chad, Gabon, Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia and more.
The goal of the Office for Black Catholic Ministry, Prejean said, “is to assist black Catholics to become full participants in the life of the Church. … Though the numbers are significantly smaller than those of the Hispanic community, the challenges are just as complex in terms of the language barrier and other cultural differences.”
Catholic Schools Supported By Appeal Funds
The archdiocesan Catholic schools are subsidized by the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal in two areas: under-resourced schools and the parish preschool program.
Diane Starkovich, superintendent of Catholic schools, said that the funds are used for scholarship assistance in the under-resourced schools.
The portion of the Annual Appeal designated to preschools helps the 32 preschool programs in the archdiocese with “meetings, quality review visits and assistance from (coordinator of parish-based early childhood programs) Terry Graham.”
Starkovich noted that her predecessor created Graham’s position five years ago, which was “quite forward thinking.”
Starkovich said, “While the schools have strong resources available to them, prior to Terry’s position being created, the preschool directors had no one point of contact when questions arose. Terry assists with new programs being established, she visits each preschool program twice during the year, she hosts director meetings and the Summer Institute—the Annual Appeal funds assist in making this happen.”
She added, “Despite our best efforts to keep increases in tuition to a minimum, the reality is that the costs to educate students, both in our Catholic schools and in our parish preschool programs, continues to rise. The generous donations by parishioners throughout the archdiocese help meet the financial needs of these programs.”
Programs That Benefit From Appeal
The programs that benefit from the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal comprise seven major areas, including the vocations program, Catholic Charities of Atlanta, pastoral outreach, formation and discipleship, 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 2010 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.
The Vocations Program is projected to receive $2,000,000. Of that total, $1.9 million is slated for seminarian education, and $100,000 will go to the Permanent Diaconate Office. 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.
The Office of Formation and Discipleship 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, which overall receives $1.4 million, campus ministry will receive $380,000; family ministry, $210,000; youth ministry, $190,000; adult ministry, $150,000; young adult ministry, $140,000; catechetical ministry, $140,000; pastoral care ministry, $100,000; and inculturation ministry, $90,000.
Priest Support and Retirement will receive $1.2 million, including $1 million for the support and care of retired priests, and $200,000 for continuing formation such as conferences and other types of education.
In Pastoral Outreach nine areas of ministry are subsidized by the Appeal for a total of $800,000. The Office for Black Catholic Ministry is projected to receive $180,000; the Hispanic Ministry Office, $160,000; the Eucharistic Renewal and Evangelization program, $150,000; the Office of Child and Youth Protection, $140,000; the Pro-Life Ministry, now called the Respect Life Ministry, $90,000; and the Disabilities Ministry, $80,000.
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 $800,000, including $750,000 for under-resourced school support and $50,000 for parish preschool programs.
Catholic Charities of Atlanta, Inc., will receive $590,000, for its varied programs, including the Pregnancy, Parenting and Adoption Services, which receives $130,000; Village of St. Joseph counseling, $130,000; Family Enrichment program, $110,000; Immigration Legal Services, $100,000; Refugee Resettlement program, $60,000; Parish Social Justice Ministry, $50,000; and Disaster Preparedness/Response, $10,000.
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 $400,000.
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.
Siler said, “Stewardship as a way of life suggests that we, like the tenant farmers taking care of the vineyard for the landowner, are but tending to and caring for the possessions of the owner. Our Lord calls us to be faithful stewards who reflect the generosity of the owner. Consider all that you have been given by God and take a step in faith to return that generosity to our Lord.”
Archbishop Gregory emphasized through the video that the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal is “our opportunity to unite and reach out to those around us, thoughout north and central Georgia.” He continued, “Your gift to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal helps us fulfill our call to be disciples, to preach, to teach, to heal and to serve, to do the will of the Father.”
He said, “As the needs of God’s children grow, so does my need to ask you to please give generously.”
Father Ballman said, “Some people are tempted to think that their contribution doesn’t make much of a difference, but on the contrary, every contribution helps. If each and every one of us does not give generously from our hearts (and wallets), then the Body of Christ will limp because it will not have the use of all of the gifts that God has generously bestowed upon its members. We live in the midst of the most difficult of economic times. Our heroic sacrifices at this very moment will define our greatness. God knows the intentions of each and every one of our hearts; our generosity will not go unrewarded.”
For more information, contact your parish or mission or Christine Heusinger, stewardship coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (404) 885-7277. More detailed information about the ministries, programs and services that receive the funds from the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal is available at www.archatl.com/aaa.