‘Inspiring Disciples’ is theme of 2017 Bishop’s Appeal

ALLOUEZ — What inspires you to be a disciple of Christ?

Whatever it is — from the Mass to prayer to caring for the poor — the annual Bishop’s Appeal of the Green Bay Diocese wants to help deepen that inspiration.

This year’s Bishop’s Appeal has “Inspiring Disciples” as its theme. The theme comes from the diocesan mission and vision statements inaugurated last August by Bishop David Ricken. According to that mission statement, disciples discover, follow and worship Jesus, and share Jesus with others.

The annual diocesan appeal — which kicks off in parishes the weekend of Feb. 4-5 — seeks to help everyone do that, through a variety of ways which the appeal funds. While some dioceses call their annual collection by names such as “services appeal” or “diocesan appeal,” the Green Bay Diocese has personalized the title since Cardinal Adam Maida changed the name back in the late 1980s from the Diocesan Services Appeal to the Bishop’s Appeal. It is meant to emphasize the bishop’s personal appeal.

“It’s really the bishop inviting people to support the ministries of the greater church,” explained Josh Diedrich, Bishop’s Appeal director, “the ministries that help enhance programs and ministries in our parishes and our Catholic schools and help people who are in search of God’s love in our communities.”

This year’s Appeal goal is $5.3 million, a slight increase from the $5.1 million of a year ago, but only the second increase in the past eight years. Last year, the Appeal surpassed its goal and raised $5.758 million, donated by 30,500 families around northeastern Wisconsin.

Diedrich credits the generosity of those local Catholics. “It’s a testament to the deep faith our people have here in northeast Wisconsin and their wanting to help people through the Bishop’s Appeal.”

The annual Appeal funds the various departments of the diocese, including Education, Catholic Charities, Ministry Formation, Stewardship and Pastoral Services, as well as The Compass. Ninety-two cents of every dollar contributed goes directly to fund those services.

Diedrich notes that one of the frequent questions he gets is, “How does my parish benefit from the Bishop’s Appeal?”

It’s an honest question and Diedrich is happy to answer it. He points out how the Appeal helps the diocese train teachers in Catholic schools and religious educators in parishes, prepare men for the ministry of the diaconate, provide counseling services through Catholic Charities with offices around the 16 counties of the diocesan area, offer summer camp — at Camp Tekakwitha in Shawano County — and even train parish business managers through the Emmaus formation program.

“I am privileged enough to see (examples of) this every Sunday when I go to Mass and see young people in the pews,” said Diedrich. He added that, “We’ve got more than 25,000 young people in Catholic schools and religious education programs. These educators do such a wonderful job of instilling the faith in these kids.  As we know, in any profession, educators need help, they need tools, they need training. That’s where our Education Department in the diocese comes in.”

Diedrich has worked on the annual Appeal for 15 years and sees many people who have been aided by the Appeal as he puts together each year’s Appeal video. He hears stories of sorrow and of triumph, and wonders how those people, who were helped by the diocese, are doing today. While he may not know, he is assured that Catholic Charities and other departments have kept in touch when needed.

This year’s video features Kyle Holewinski, a deputy sheriff who works in the Winnebago County jail. Holewinski speaks of how some of the stress of his job was making him worry that he might become jaded and harsh. So this member of St. Raphael Parish in Oshkosh turned to the diocesan Emmaus program to learn how to live his faith — both in the world and on the job. Emmaus turned Holewinski’s life around and he now works with those who provide jail ministry at the county jail and is also a confirmation teacher in his parish.

Holewinski’s is just one of many stories of people who have been inspired in their faith through the efforts of the diocese and the help of the Bishop’s Appeal. Just one of many stories Diedrich has heard over the years.

One story that haunts him today, he admits, is about a woman named Anna. She was featured in the Appeal video 10 years ago. Anna was working three jobs to support herself and her son, as well as the boyfriend who lived with them. Then, one day, the boyfriend left and took all their funds and many personal possessions.

With nowhere to turn, Anna went to Judy Turba, then a mental health counselor with the Green Bay office of Catholic Charities. Anna’s life turned around from that moment. Diedrich, in interviewing her in 2007 asked. “’Anna, where would you be if you hadn’t gone to Catholic Charities?’ Her answer,” he said, “was very simple: ‘I’d be in a cemetery.’”

Diedrich added, “It’s those kind of stories that make me think about my own giving (to the appeal). It makes me think, ‘Maybe I can give a little bit extra this year.’”

There are a variety of ways to give to the Bishop’s Appeal, from writing a check to paying through automatic drafts. Some people give money, others give stocks. One man even gives soy beans each year. Gifts vary in size, with the average last year being $188.

“I’m just grateful for whatever size gift a person gives,” Diedrich said, speaking for both himself and for Bishop Ricken. “Each and every one of those gifts is a special gift, and each and every one of those gifts touched the lives of people here in northeast Wisconsin.”

Some companies around northeast Wisconsin — from Kimberly-Clark to the Green Bay Packers — even offer to augment Appeal gifts through matching fund programs. (Check with your company’s human resources department to see is yours does.)

“At the end of the day,” Diedrich said, “as we inspire disciples, our goal is to strive to lead all people to the kingdom of God. That’s what the vision says. As people become inspired, they walk down that path, they walk that journey of discipleship that leads them to the kingdom of God.”

For more information on the Appeal, and to watch videos from this year and previous years, visit www.catholicfoundationgb.org.