Diocese offers helping hands in many ways
Appeal supports a variety of services to parishes, others
Last in Bishop's Appeal series
By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor
EXTEND A HAND: Cathy Schumer and her daughter, Megan, prepare to make the Sign of the Cross at Holy Cross Church, Bay Settlement. The Green Bay Diocese, through the annual Bishop's Appeal helps parishes and individuals extend a helping hand at all age levels and needs. (Rick Evans photo)
A child comes into the world, caught by hands. It nurses, cradled by hands. It takes its first steps, as hands reach out to steady those steps.
In the same way, the diocesan offices reach out to people - through all stages of life - to comfort, reassure and encourage. And, when life draws to its end, the hands of priests, counselors, lay ministers and deacons offer comfort, peace and hope.
"There are critical intersections in people's lives, where we come in," said Karen Johnston, director of Catholic Charities. "It could be at the beginning of your life, or when you're trying to raise a child, or when you've lost a spouse."
From adoption and family planning advice, to engaged encounters and marriage support, to sacramental preparation, in schools and adult education workshops, from questions of faith
to issues of morality, there is scarcely a moment in life where someone from the diocese cannot "Offer a Helping Hand," the theme for this year's Bishop's Appeal.
"Faith is a journey of life," said Mark Mogilka, diocesan director of Pastoral Services. "The growth in our relationship with God is a life-long journey and an adventure that takes us through various stages of life. It's crucial for us, as Christians, to walk with people through those journeys."
Most people first reach out for help to a parish. As Lee Nagel notes, the diocesan goal is to help parishes have hands ready to respond. As director of Total Catholic Education, he echoed the sentiments of all diocesan directors: "People have so little idea how many parishes are calling our offices for help. People can pick up the phone and get an answer - that goes for pastors, teachers, catechists, the mother concerned about school safety ... If we can do our job well for priests and administrators, it'll just flow out."
For example, diocesan offices offer parishes
religious training for catechists and teachers, as well as teacher in-services,
guidelines for hiring school administrators and parish leaders,
the annual Gathering of the Church of Green Bay with nearly 200 workshops,
information on building renovations and insurance,
training for peer ministry,
deacon and ministry training,
worship and music consultants and
cooperative links with Catholic hospitals and nursing facilities
Additionally, to protect children, the diocese has enrolled in VIRTUS to train the thousands of ministers, teachers and volunteers working in parishes and schools to detect
and prevent sexual abuse.
But long before school starts, the church enters a child's life. Because of diocesan training, parish priests and deacons welcome newborns into baptism, and parish ministers help their parents prepare for the sacrament.
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 diocese offers further training, through its education and worship offices, as well as resource materials from its lending library, so ministers and volunteers can offer children - as young as three years old - Children's Liturgy Time at Sunday Mass. (And if a priest is sick or on vacation, Mass is still celebrated because of the diocesan network of retired clergy, linked through the Vicar for Priests.)
As children grow, their families move and many do so based on their faith.
"We get calls from parents, who've just moved," Nagel said, "and want to know where a Catholic school is. Or who are moving, and want to locate in an area near a school."
With 72 Catholic schools and six Catholic high schools in its 16-county area, the diocese offers many choices.
Also, each of its 185 parishes offers religious education programs. And when it's time for a child's First Reconciliation or First Communion, catechists stand ready, either trained by
the diocese or at their parish with the guidance of diocesan education staff. Through the Commissioned Ministry program religious education personnel, as well as liturgists, business administrators and parish ministers receive training so they can reach out confident hands to any who seek guidance in the basics - and beyond - of their faith.
In the teen years, children seek to reach outside their everyday world. So the diocese offers annual Youth Jams, a summer Peace Walk, trips to international World Youth Day and service trips - both locally and to inner cities, through the diocesan Appalachian Outreach, or even at the diocesan mission in the Dominican Republic. Theology 101 lets young adults explore information on faith and Theology on Tap allows them to delve into faith formation issues in Green Bay, Appleton, Antigo, Sturgeon Bay and Oshkosh. Diocesan campus ministry also serves at UW-Green Bay and UW-Oshkosh.
Sometimes exploration leads to the discovery of a vocation to priesthood or diaconate. Currently, 14 men are in seminary formation through the diocese, and 11 deacons will be ordained May 15 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. There is also an annual vocations' Walk
with Jesus, Project Andrew dinners with Bp. Zubik and connections with various religious communities that offer information on vocations for both men and women.
The diocese also works with Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, on Commissioned Ministry, and St. Norbert College in De Pere, which offers a master's degree in theological studies. The diocesan Lumen Christi fund provides education grants for catechists and ministers.
Sometimes, as children learn to walk, they stumble and fall. Confused, maybe hurt, they look for a hand to help them.
Topping $3 million
Some 28,718 donors have given Bishop's Appeal 2004 gifts totaling $3,206,339 as of March 23. The average gift is $111.65. The target is $4.8 million.
"There are times," said Johnston, "when you need to ask for help and there is nothing wrong with that. My mother always told me that. When people come here, they have made the
conscious decision to ask for help, and that took tremendous courage."
Through Catholic Charities offices and outreach - in Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh, Marinette, Manitowoc, Wautoma, Antigo and Niagara - the diocese offers a myriad of services. These include pregnancy counseling, help for addictions, counseling for mental health and marital problems, anger management, budget counseling, links to health care services, grief assistance, disaster services, financial aid for pregnant women and mothers, as well as outreach to seafarers and refugees.
Through Diocesan Pastoral Services, help goes to prison and jail ministry, pastoral care, networking for parish nurses, ministry and emergency grants for farmers, migrant ministry,
ministry for the deaf and hearing impaired, outreach to the divorced and widowed, social justice ministry and help to persons with special needs. (The education department also offers training for special needs religion classes.) There is also ministry to Hispanics and the Hmong.
One mother, helped with an emergency grant from Catholic Charities for housing costs expressed how diocesan hands reached out for her: "I am writing to thank you and the New Life
Fund for helping me so much. I am thankful there are places and people like you I could reach out to in my time of need. The support your agency has given me, helped me see the light at the end of a dark tunnel I have been heading down."
Besides providing outreach like weekly Sunday Mass on WBAY TV and The Compass newspaper, the diocese maintains direct service facilities where people reach out to help. These include:
McCormick Home for assisted living in Green Bay (including Grellinger Hall for retired priests),
Holy Name Retreat House on Chambers Island in Door County,
a Youth Retreat Center in Kellnersville,
a cemetery and mausoleum in Green Bay, ties with area cemeteries in Antigo, Manitowoc, Oshkosh, Appleton, De Pere and Sturgeon Bay, and consulting services for the 191 parish cemeteries in the diocese.
There is also Camp Tekawitha in Shawano County (currently expanding to a year-round facility) where, for decades, children have shared summer camp experiences.
"We have people contact us who are 80, and children who are eight," said Johnston. "And all of them can sing the same camp (Tekawitha) ditties."
Whether we are children or grown-up, we touch others. Through programs and services, ministries and training, outreach and facilities, the diocese helps strengthen those connections. It can do so because Catholics continue to reach out through the annual Bishop's Appeal. Those funds, invested and cultivated, have helped ministers prepare themselves to offer a hand wherever people need to see the loving face of Christ and feel the gentle touch of God.
"It's humbling to hear the feedback," said Johnston." 'We're saving a life or a marriage.' 'We're turning a recalcitrant teen into a pussycat.' In the lives of the people we serve, we're doing good things."
(For more information on diocesan services, visit the Green Bay Diocese web site at www.gbdioc.org.)