Parish’s innovative ideas leads to success with Bishop’s Appeal donations

By Sam Lucero | The Compass | March 17, 2021

BELLEVUE — Like every other parish in the Diocese of Green Bay, Prince of Peace participates in the Bishop’s Appeal, the annual diocesan-wide fundraising campaign. Last year, the Appeal raised more than $5.9 million from more than 27,550 families and individuals, surpassing its goal of $5.45 million.

Deacon Jeff Prickette, pastoral leader at Prince of Peace Parish in Bellevue, offers a blessing to Savannah VanRite, who is held by her grandfather, Jeff Vandenplas, during Mass March 13. Deacon Prickette encourages parishioners to contribute to the Bishop’s Appeal because of the services it provides to the community, such as those by Catholic Charities. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Deacon Jeff Prickette, pastoral leader at Prince of Peace since April 2019, has been successful in helping his parish meet and exceed its goal. With approximately 1,450 registered families, the parish’s assessment for 2020 was $70,797, he said. It raised $73,889, with 437 families contributing. “We’re shooting for 500 families this year,” he said.

As pastoral leader, Deacon Prickette is privileged to see how the Appeal benefits the community, making it easier for him to encourage parish support.

Yes, it’s an assessment,” he said. “We have to raise some money and if we don’t, we are going to have to pay it out of our parish surplus. But I think, when people really understand how it benefits so many individuals in so many different ways, … I think this is much, much bigger than most of us really realize.”

Deacon Prickette said he has found a few keys to a successful Bishop’s Appeal campaign. The first, he said, is to “keep the topic in front of people.”

“I do a weekly update on Wednesday afternoons that people actually watch,” he said. “We livestream it and then we have it on our Facebook page and people will watch it through the weekend. We get about 450 views a week.”

His updates are about 20 minutes long and he is able to share examples about how the Appeal has helped others. This allows parishioners to change their mindset, from seeing the Appeal as a mandatory assessment to instead seeing it as an opportunity to serve others.

“I’ve had countless people come in here in the last year (during the COVID-19 pandemic) who are having financial issues or are having serious emotional issues, and I’ve sent them over to Catholic Charities,” he said. “They call me back and say, ‘Wow, thanks so much. It really helped a lot.’”

In 2020, the Bishop’s Appeal distributed $965,653 to Catholic Charities to support their ministries.

“So that’s what we are contributing to,” said Deacon Prickette. “It’s not just putting money in an envelope. Catholic Charities does so much good, and people don’t have to be Catholic to benefit.” 

He also shared the story of a young parishioner whom he spoke to after Mass. “She was pregnant and not married and didn’t know what to do,” he said. “She was told to get an abortion and it would take care of it.”

Deacon Prickette had her contact Catholic Charities “and they lined her up to have the baby and then put it up for adoption,” he said. “It’s another example of what the Bishop’s Appeal does and what Catholic Charities does. Those are the things that, when people understand, they don’t hesitate to give.”

Ordained to the diaconate in 2012, Deacon Prickette is also acutely aware of how the Bishop’s Appeal supports the formation of permanent deacons in the diocese.

“We have three deacons here at Prince of Peace: Deacon Bill Burkel, Deacon Dennis Kozlovsky and me,” he said. “All three of us are really here because of the generosity of the Bishop’s Appeal because our classwork was largely paid for by the Bishop’s Appeal. So I tell (parishioners), ‘You helped us become the people that we are today, through your contributions and your prayers.’ A lot of people don’t understand that.”

Deacon Prickette said one classmate preparing for the diaconate “would not have been able to afford the coursework” without the support of the Bishop’s Appeal. 

“We understand (that material wealth) is a blessing from God and it’s really part of our responsibility with our blessings to give it back, and this is as good a place as any to give it to,” he said.

When a parish exceeds its Bishop’s Appeal goal, it keeps half of that amount. Deacon Prickette said Prince of Peace is using its 2020 excess to help create usable outdoor spaces for youth and families.

“We have a lot of land here and what we largely do in the summer is mow it once a week,” he said. “So the vision is to make this more a place where families will want to come during the week and spend time. Our vision is to build a soccer field and a softball diamond. Everybody on the parish pastoral council (and) finance council is excited about it.”

An outdoor basketball court and a “gaga pit” (an enclosed area where a game similar to dodgeball is played) for youth are also in the works, he added.

The parish’s 2021 Bishop’s Appeal goal is $71,784, said Deacon Prickette. “There is no reason we can’t hit this goal. We are at like 55% right now and we are ahead of last year. We certainly can get this done. It’s not about how much (people contribute), it’s about wanting to help and wanting to change people’s lives, and that’s what the Bishop’s Appeal does.”

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