GREEN BAY — “Rising in Faith” is the theme for the annual Bishop’s Appeal that begins this weekend — Feb. 1 and 2 — in parishes around the Diocese of Green Bay. The annual Appeal supports diocesan ministries and services to parishes, schools, families and individuals in northeast Wisconsin.
“The theme (this year) is an invitation, perhaps even a rallying cry, to step up and live what we believe,” explained Tammy Danz, director of the Bishop’s Appeal. “So, as a way to rise to the challenge of the Gospel, the Bishop’s Appeal inspires us to put our money where our mouth is and to actively live out our faith.”
The Bishop’s Appeal is a direct request from Bishop David Ricken to the people of the diocese.
Danz said that Bishop Ricken keeps abreast of the Appeal each week as it progresses, from seeing regular diocesan and parish reports to personal updates from Danz.
“If Bishop (Ricken) has a question,” Danz added, “he’ll ask.”
And, for those who have their own questions, no, the Bishop’s Appeal does not pay Bishop Ricken’s salary. This is one of the questions the Appeal team has heard over the years, though, not as often now, Danz said, crediting rising awareness of the Appeal’s purpose.
One of the focus stories for this year’s Appeal deals with Leah and Mark Kempen of St. Pius X Parish in Appleton, who adopted their two children Isabelle and Michael through Catholic Charities’ adoption program. When Danz attended a recent Crosier member meeting, she spoke about the Kempens. Afterwards, she recalled, a man in his 80s approached her and said, “We adopted our children through Catholic Charities and I am so grateful that that program is still going.”
Monies raised by the Appeal, outside of operating expenses, go entirely to fund services offered by the diocese. These ministries are handled by the mission teams that make up the diocesan Curia. Among the teams receiving funds are Catholic Charities and Living Justice; Families and Schools of Discipleship; Parish Life; Discipleship and Leadership Development; and Resource and Support, a team which includes The Compass.
The Catholic Charities and Living Justice Mission Team offers a variety of personal and family assistance, including mental health services, family strengthening services, adoption counseling, financial health services and care ministry. Care ministry trains parish care ministers to bring Communion, prayers and visits to people who are homebound and sick.
Training pastoral ministers
“Pastoral care ministry, by its very nature, meets people in their sickness, suffering, loneliness and accompanies them to rise in faith,” explained Mary Armbrust, pastoral care and ministry coordinator for Catholic Charities. “The ministries I train and support for this work is only made possible by funding from the Bishop’s Appeal. (Parish) ministers learn how to intentionally act as sources of compassion and hope, helping those they serve to know and remember that God is with them now, and in the next good thing that awaits. God assures us that there is always something more than the pain that is being experienced, if only we can trust and ‘arise in faith.’”
In 2019, the Catholic Charities and Living Justice Mission Team received $1,409,940 — 40% of its operating budget — from the Bishop’s Appeal.
The Families and Schools of Discipleship Mission Team offers curriculum and educational resources to parishes and Catholic schools. These include the religious certification program and Principal Leadership Days, as well as campus ministry at UW-Oshkosh and UW-Green Bay.
“I am so grateful to the Bishop’s Appeal as it enables us to empower our students to ‘rise in faith,’ said Sr. Laura Zelten, Catholic campus ministry director at UW-Green Bay. “Through the generosity of our benefactors, we are able to equip our student leaders to drive the moment of evangelization by developing a growing community of missionary disciples committed to prayer, discipleship, community and evangelization.”
This Families and Schools of Discipleship Mission Team also supports marriage preparation ministries for engaged couples and marriage enrichment for married couples. In 2019, $1,753,405 of the Bishop’s Appeal was distributed to this team. This represents 69% of its operating budget.
The Parish Life Mission Team offers workshops, adult faith formation and retreats, young adult ministry, help for pastoral and finance councils, training for liturgists and parish musicians, and multicultural ministry. They also support the liturgical and sacramental life of parishes.
For Jane Angha, director of Young Adult Ministry for the diocese, the Appeal helps with the field operations.
“We have seven regional coordinators,” she said, “who are out in the field serving the young adult community with events like ‘Brewing the Faith,’ board games, Bible studies, bowling, praise and worship nights with adoration, financial freedom courses, potlucks, chili cook-offs and ‘open mic’ nights. We also spend time out in the field with one-to-one meetings with young adults looking for a group to be a part of and a place to belong. ‘Rise in Faith’ describes perfectly the goals we have for our ministry this coming year — raising up leaders among our young adults who will help to define and expand our missionary efforts in the field. It’s a beautiful challenge we are ready to take on.”
In 2019, the Bishop’s Appeal distributed $1,283,388 — 90% of the operating budget — to the Parish Life Mission Team.
Supporting ministry formation
The Discipleship and Leadership Development Mission Team trains and forms priests, deacons, parish leaders and lay ministers.
For Jamie Whalen, Lay Leadership Formation director for the diocese, “knowing that so many people across the diocese, of varying backgrounds and means, support the Bishop’s Appeal each year gives me hope and confidence in my ministry.”
“It brings to mind the communion of saints — a great cloud of witnesses, some known, some unknown, who pray for us and intercede for us,” added Whalen. “As I support the students in the Emmaus Program, and see them grow in their leadership and ministry, I know that they in turn are helping those they serve rise up in faith as disciples on the way.”
In 2019, the Bishop’s Appeal distributed $671,159 to the Discipleship and Leadership Development Mission Team to support its ministries.
The goal for this year’s Bishop’s Appeal is $5.4 million, the same as it was in both 2018 and 2019. Last year’s Appeal raised $5.9 million. Danz credits that track record to donors and parish leaders.
“We’re fortunate that we have generous families that can see the impact of these gifts,” she said. “The parishes are good at explaining what these gifts go toward and how important they are.”
Reaching out in new ways
New this year to Appeal materials is a Spanish-captioned version of the video shown at parishes. Danz noted that the Appeal tries to reach out in new ways each year and the team noticed that nine parishes around the diocese now have regular Sunday Masses in Spanish. Danz also noted a recent Compass article that mentioned that St. John in Gillett was also adding a regular monthly Spanish Mass (Jan. 3, 2020). Both videos can be viewed at this website: catholicfoundationgb.org/video.
As the diocese embarks on the 2020 Bishop’s Appeal, Danz and the Appeal team expressed gratitude to the people who support the Appeal.
“‘Thank you’ does not seem like big enough words to express my gratitude,” Danz said. “I’m so grateful to the people who donate to the Bishop’s Appeal. Their gifts, no matter what the size, impact many other people.
“Whether you build a family with adoption services, provide someone the training to visit and bring holy Communion to people who are homebound in hospitals or nursing homes, or provide training to the leaders of our parishes and Catholic schools to teach that next generation our Catholic faith, all of these things change people’s lives forever because of their generosity,” added Danz.