ALLOUEZ — Did you know that you are a mirror?
This year’s annual Bishop’s Appeal has “Sharing the Light of Christ” as its theme. It comes from the first encyclical written by Pope Francis: “The light of Christ shines, as in a mirror, upon the face of Christians so that we too can share in that vision and reflect that light to others” (Lumen Fidei).
The annual diocesan appeal, which supports programs, services to parishes and schools and diocesan departments, will begin the weekend of Feb. 8-9. The goal this year is $5.1 million, which is the same as last year. For four years prior to that, the goal was $5 million.
The final total for last year’s appeal was $5.416 million, raised from just over 32,000 gifts, according to Josh Diedrich, director of the Bishop’s Appeal.
“Each and every year it amazes me, the generosity of the people here in northeast Wisconsin,” Diedrich said, “the way they reach out and share those gifts that God has given them with so many other people. A lot of times, when you make a gift to Bishop’s Appeal, you’re making that gift and not really seeing that person that’s being helped. For example, you may not recognize that the deacon who just baptized a baby, but his formation was supported because of your gift to Bishop’s Appeal.”
A baby is featured in this year’s appeal video, which will be shown in many parishes. Nate and Alena Tapelt, members of St. John Nepomucene Parish in Little Chute, adopted their daughter, Leylah, through the adoption services of Catholic Charities. The Tapelts are grateful to Catholic Charities’ open adoption program that allows them to be in contact with Leyla’s birth mother. In fact, Leyla’s birth mother even suggested her name.
“Adoption is such a beautiful gift,” Alena Tapelt told The Compass in an October 2013 interview. “It gives a child a better life. But, it is really beautiful that they chose life. We’re eternally grateful for the choice the birth mother made.”
Where does this $5.1 million go? Diedrich notes that people who give to the Bishop’s Appeal should know that, first of all, the Appeal supports the ministries of the diocese and accounts for nearly 50 percent of the diocesan budget. Catholic Charities, which has a wide variety of programs to offer including adoption services, received 21 percent of the Appeal’s funds last year.
“Without the Bishop’s Appeal, we wouldn’t be able to provide these ministries to parishes, schools and people in need,” Diedrich said.
He added that there are many ministries in the diocese and that it’s a challenge each year to decide which ministries to focus on for the campaign.
“We try to focus on ministries that can be seen in as many parishes as possible,” he said. “Not every parish is the same — they all bring differences, they all have different ministries that are emphasized. So we try to find some ministries that have commonality across the board. That’s why we look to Catholic Charities almost every year. Reaching out to those who are in need of counseling services and the care that Catholic Charities provides is universal, in all the parishes. We have people who are struggling in all parts of our diocese. Catholic Charities is there to help them.”
Another department that reaches all the 157 parishes in the diocese is the Education Department, which offers not only assistance to the Catholic schools, but also to parish religious education and youth ministry programs. It also oversees the work of Camp Tekakwitha, the diocesan youth camp and retreat center located on Loon Lake in Shawano County.
“Thousands and thousands of children every week are learning about our faith through religious education programs,” said Diedrich. “Those programs are being done at the parish level, but are supported in a big way at the diocesan level.”
How Bishop’s Appeal funds are distributed each year is determined through a budgeting process that is overseen by Deacon Tim Reilly, general director of the diocesan curia, and Paul Kolbach, chief financial officer for the diocese, in conjunction with Bishop David Ricken, the diocesan finance council and the budget review committee (a group which consists of people who are not members of the diocesan staff). They look at how much the Appeal was able to raise during the past year and then allocate those funds to the various ministries of the diocese for the next year.
“They look at how much the Bishop’s Appeal will be able to raise this year, and they allocate the funds to those ministries,” Diedrich explained.
In terms of what people give each year as a gift to the annual appeal, Diedrich said that the average gift in 2013 was $169. However, he said, “I know that there are people in our diocese for whom a gift of $10, $15 or $20 is a great sacrificial gift for them — and that’s a blessing to us.”
As to how people give to the Appeal, there are a variety of ways, ranging from one-time payments to automatic electronic funds transfers from bank accounts. People who donate by credit cards might coincidentally earn points, while others may find that their employers provide matching funds for their donations. One of those companies is Thrivent Financial for Lutherans in Appleton, Diedrich said.
He added that most companies that provide matching funds for the Bishop’s Appeal do so with the condition that “the gift goes to support Catholic Charities, because Catholic Charities supports people of all religions, not just Catholics.”
Anyone can make a gift online at www.catholicfoundationgb.org/give. Those who are able to give more than $500 a year are enrolled in the Crosier Society.
Deciding what to give is up to each person, Diedrich said.
“It comes down to some prayer and recognizing, ‘What would God want me to give back?’ Whatever that is, we are grateful for.”
Diedrich stressed gratitude as he reviewed the annual Appeal and how it reflects the people of the Green Bay Diocese.
“I want to add my thanks and the thanks of people who are served through the ministries of the diocese,” he said. “In today’s society, we don’t thank people enough for their support of organizations like the Catholic diocese. I know Bishop Ricken is grateful for the support and the impact he sees, on a daily basis.”
During the coming weeks, parishes around the diocese will display the 2014 Bishop’s Appeal posters and brochures. This year’s Appeal video, as well as Appeal videos from past years, highlighting other diocesan programs, can be found at www.catholicfoundationsgb.org/video.