STURGEON BAY — Bob Ross has contributed to the Bishop’s Appeal for many years. Three or four years ago, he decided he needed to step up his giving.
His reasons are many, and all of them connected. They begin with Bishop David Ricken himself.
“We have a very dynamic bishop,” Ross said at his Sturgeon Bay office of Ross Estate Planning. “I believe strongly in his six-year program (Disciples on the Way), and I think it’s really important to help him accomplish those goals.”
Those goals are part of the new evangelization, but Ross said it won’t happen in church, but on the streets.
“Opening the doors of the church isn’t to let people in, it’s to let us go out to others, and that’s where the Bishop’s Appeal and all the things it supports is so important,” he said.
Spiritual goals need material assistance in the form of programs, materials, training and other tools for getting the Gospel message of discipleship “out there.” Ross knows about that end of it because his own business is in Sturgeon Bay, where the “very dynamic” Door County Community Foundation helps support the 300-plus volunteer and charity organizations that greatly improve the quality of life in that county.
“We in the Catholic world have the same thing, the Green Bay Catholic Foundation, and I serve on that board to encourage planned giving,” Ross said. Part of that foundation is the Bishop’s Appeal, which supports the diocese’s ongoing programs and services.
In addition to supporting the Bishop’s Appeal, Ross is involved in various ministries, including Esto Vir (Be a Man). The program’s self-proclaimed goal is to “help, encourage, embolden and empower intentional discipleship among men, to deepen their commitment to Jesus Christ, their families, the Catholic Church, its bishops, priests and their communities.” The most recent conference was held in Green Bay on March 4.
Ross’ belief in Esto Vir is connected to the 30 years he just finished as choir director for St. Joseph Parish in Sturgeon Bay.
“As choir director, I sat up in the choir loft, looked down, and saw a lot of gray hair,” he said. “My goal is to see families in church. I love nothing better than to hear a crying baby in church, because that means we have young folks coming to Mass.”
Contrary to some people’s opinion that catechizing children will rejuvenate the church, Ross believes it will take getting dads involved in the church.
“We do a great job with the kids up through high school, but when they leave the nest, we start to lose them,” he said. “I think that’s partly because they haven’t had the example of the family participating in church,” with the father assuming his natural role as spiritual head of the family — something often lacking in American Catholic culture.
Ross said men and women experience and express their spirituality in different ways, but men don’t often have the opportunity to meet together in an environment that speaks specifically to them. It’s important to the future of the church that they do, Ross believes.
“We know there’s a spiritual war out there, and who better suited to warfare than men?” Ross asked.
Esto Vir brings in dynamic speakers that include priests as well as Catholic men who are expert in hunting, fishing and sports — things men especially can identify with.
Besides Esto Vir, Ross has joined the Knights of Columbus, which ministers to families.
“Because I’ve been involved in planned giving, I’ve encouraged our knights to become members of the Crozier Society,” Ross said, something he himself has done for the past few years.
Membership is achieved through generous donations to the Bishop’s Appeal. It is designed for those who have been blessed with worldly goods and who have a desire to share that with Jesus and the Church by helping the bishop in his plans to train disciples and to meet people’s many kinds of needs.
Last year, 3,171 people were members of the Crozier Society, and their donations comprised 50 percent of the $5.7 million collected for the Bishop’s Appeal.
It’s true that people with fewer resources can share their time and talent. But, Ross said, they need the resources, through the Bishop’s Appeal, from those who have the treasure. It takes generous hearts in all three areas.
Ross summed up his attitude about responding generously to the Bishop’s Appeal by quoting a passage from Auxiliary Bishop Robert Morneau’s 2016 book of Advent reflections.
“It is amazing what joy fills the heart when generosity becomes a way of life.”