Parish finds help from diocese only a phone call away
Staff often uses support provided through annual Bishop's Appeal
Sixth in a series on Bishop's Appeal 2004
By Joanne Flemming
FINDING HELP: Sr. Judy Miller and Jenny Thorn at St. Mary Parish, Oshkosh, regularly use services provided by the Bishop's Appeal. (Richard Meyer photo)
There are two indications that St. Mary Parish in Oshkosh benefits daily from services provided by Green Bay diocesan agencies, said Sr. Judy Miller, parish director.
First, until the diocese got its 1-877 toll-free phone number, the most frequently called number on the parish's long distance bill was the diocesan number.
Second, when St. Mary staff talk about diocesan personnel, they use first names. "We do
interact with them a lot," Sr. Miller said.
This year, St. Mary's target for the Bishop's Appeal, which supports diocesan services, is $31,152. Sr. Miller said it was a solicitation that was "easy for us to talk about because of all the services given us by the diocese."
Jan Cleaver, parish bookkeeper, and Nancy Reichenberger, administrative assistant, said when they started working at St. Mary, they were hesitant to call the diocese for help.
"When I learned how accessible (they) were, I just started calling them for any questions I had," Cleaver said.
"They're like your friends," added Reichenberger. "I've never met half the people I'm talking to. They are very helpful and informative."
Sr. Miller said "Their attitude is that they're there to help us succeed in whatever we're doing."
When the parish answered the diocesan Department of Refugee and Migration Services' request to help a Sudanese family of seven resettle in Oshkosh, Sr. Miller said, the diocese
provided and paid for an interpreter. It also directed the family to financial help.
What: Bishop's Appeal, the Green Bay Diocese's annual fund-raiser to support diocesan programs and services offered to parishes and individuals.
Where: All parishes in the diocese.
When: Right now.
How: Making a cash, check, credit card (MasterCard, Visa and Discover) or pledge donation. Materials have been sent to homes and also are available through parishes. Some employers offer matching gift programs, for which Catholic Charities may qualify, since
it serves the general public; additional information is available through Human Resources departments.
Theme: Offering a Helping Hand.
Target: $4.8 million.
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The family is doing well, Sr. Miller said. The father has been employed for more than a year and has his driver's license. Three of the five boys are in school.
Rudy Pineda, diocesan consultant for Hispanic pastoral ministry, helped St. Mary welcome its Hispanic community and provided suggestions about Spanish language Masses and literature. Pineda also assists parishes with Hispanic ministries by putting out a newsletter.
Mary Stubler, family life director, trained St. Mary's new marriage preparation coordinator, in the FOCCUS inventory for engaged couples [see related article in 2/13/2004 issue].
Appeal giving up
Bishop's Appeal 2004, as of March 8, had received 24,037 gifts totaling $2,734,522. This compares to 23,082 gifts totaling $2,393,546 at this time last year, said Ron Shaha, director of the Appeal. That puts the Appeal at 57% of this year's target of $4.8 million.
So far this year, the average gift is $113.76, compared to $103.70 at this time last year. There also have been increases in the number of new donors - 2,770 this year, compared to 1,685 a year ago - and Crozier Society members 1,159 so far this year, up from 777 last year. There are 291 new members of the Crozier Society, which is for those who give $500 or more to the Appeal.
When St. Mary staff phone the diocese with questions, answers and suggestions may be immediate. If not, the diocesan department or agency responds the next day, the women said.
Jenny Thorn, faith formation director, said consultants in the Department of Total Catholic Education have helped select textbooks and audio-visual materials. Consultants from the department are also helping her plan for the Wisconsin Directors of Religious Education Association state convention this year.
Susan Perrault, consultant for ministry to persons with disabilities, has helped her with materials for students with special needs.
Cleaver said she has received answers to questions about finances, insurance and taxes. Sr. Miller, who is a field advocate for annulments, said the Marriage Tribunal has helped with queries about annulments. She added that the diocese pays half the cost of an annulment for a person seeking one.
Diocesan personnel are willing to come to the parish whenever needed, the women said. Lee Nagel, Total Catholic Education director, and Tom Kurkowski, Finance and Accounting director, have attended meetings on the Oshkosh school system. Mark Mogilka, pastoral services director, has helped with parish planning. Cindi Brawner, Catholic Foundation director, even attended a 7:30 a.m. Saturday breakfast to explain the Foundation of which St. Mary is now a part.
Parish staff and volunteers have benefitted from diocesan workshops and training in such subjects as business, the VIRTUS Project (the program the diocese participates in to raise
awareness of and prevent sexual abuse) and Generations of Faith multi-generational religious education program.
Individual members of St. Mary also gain from diocesan help. Catholic Charities helped a couple adopt a baby. That couple is now telling other prospective adoptive parents about the help they received, said Sr. Miller.
She said other parishioners receive counseling through Catholic Charities.
"You can see we benefit daily from diocesan services," she concluded.