Bishops' Appeal helps Catholic Charities respond to crises
Editor's note: Second in a series on the Bishop's Appeal.
By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor
Bishop's Appeal at a glance
The 2008 Bishop's Appeal campaign began last weekend. The target is $5.25 million. An appeal video is available online at www.gbdioc.org.
The appeal provides for 50 percent of the diocese's operating expenses. All gifts are tax-deductible and credit cards are accepted. Pledge gifts allow donors to spread contributions over a 10-month period.
Those who give $500 or more a year to the Bishop's Appeal become members of the Crozier Society. Donors participating in Advancing the Mission stewardship campaign retain membership. Josh Diedrich, director of the Bishop's Appeal, encourages donors to ask their employers if they provide a matching gift program.
For more information about the Bishop's Appeal, contact Diedrich, at (920) 272-8197 or 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8197; e-mail: [email protected] or go online to www.gbdioc.org.
GREEN BAY -- Tragedy can strike at any moment. And the support of the church can play a crucial role in the aftermath. Catholic Charities of the Green Bay Diocese has been doing that for nearly a century.
One of recent tragedies in our area: the Oct. 7, 2007, multiple homicides in Crandon, in the northern part of the diocese in Forest County.
Jordanne Murray, Katrina McCorkle, Leanna Thomas, Bradley Schultz, Aaron Smith, Lindsey Stahl and Charlie Neitzel were shot by 20-year-old Tyler Peterson, an off-duty Forest County sheriff's deputy and part-time Crandon police officer.
Only Neitzel survived. Peterson admitted the shootings to authorities before he reportedly shot himself during a stand-off with police.
The small town of 2,000 residents was rocked. There is only one Catholic parish in the town and no Catholic school.
However, the diocesan church, under the lead of Catholic Charities of the Green Bay Diocese, responded to the crisis. (Catholic Charities receives 18 percent of its funding from the annual Bishop's Appeal.)
The shootings happened on a Sunday morning. By Sunday evening, the diocese was mobilizing a response team and, by Monday morning, a crisis team of mental health counselors from the Green Bay and Marinette offices of Catholic Charities had been assembled to travel to St. Joseph Parish in Crandon.
Val Helander-Paque and Judy Turba from Green Bay Catholic Charities and Justine Koschkee and Debra Mullen from Catholic Charities, Marinette, were in Crandon for three days, assisting Fr. Ralph Gillis, pastor and his staff. They were joined by Rosie Bartel of the diocesan education department and Rich Curran, diocesan youth and young adult director to meet religious education parents and students on Wednesday. Thursday evening, auxiliary Bishop Robert Morneau presided at a Mass at the parish. He was joined by Turba's sister, Sr. Anne Turba, and a few of her fellow Franciscan Sisters from Manitowoc.
Karen Johnston, Catholic Charities director, said that many topics - from grief to anger to emotional trauma - needed to be dealt with in the crisis response at Crandon.
"It was difficult," she said, "because this affected so many people in the whole community." There wasn't anyone who didn't know at least several of the victims, she said.
Catholic Charities' response included listening sessions with anyone who needed to talk with counselors. Beyond that, there were formal "needs assessments" by the counselors, so that long-term assistance could be offered to the parish, the community and the schools.
Catholic Charities is still available to the people in Crandon, four months later. Debra Mullen still makes regular visits to the area and is in regular contact with the parish staff.
But Crandon isn't the only crisis Catholic Charities has dealt with recently. Last year, Johnston said, the agency responded to 12 major community crises - including suicides, sudden deaths, traffic accidents and drownings. In 2005-2006, they responded to nine such tragedies within the diocese's 16 counties.
This was in additional to the regular assistance Catholic Charities provides for domestic abuse situations, mental health issues, budget counseling and alcohol and drug abuse assistance and intervention.
Crandon, though, Johnston said, "was by far the most tragic."
And that tragedy helped the diocese realize that they need a multi-department team to respond to future crises.
"(After Crandon), we decided we needed critical incident training - to have a diocesan team ready to respond," Johnston said. "At one time, we had 19 diocesan staff people trained in critical stress debriefing, CSD as they call it. When Crandon occurred, we discovered that we no longer had those people." Many of the 19 had retired and left to take other jobs.
However, she added, diocesan staff learned that newer personnel had previous experience in crisis management. These include Bartel and Curran, as well as Deacon Ray DuBois, of the education department.
"We basically found we had a core group already in place and we could look toward inviting more people," Johnston said, "in order to have a diocesan-wide team to be ready with a pastoral response that reaches across departments."
The cross-department approach is important, Johnston added. "We stressed, with the diocesan leadership team, that this doesn't need to be only therapists on the team, but people who can provide a pastoral response, to let people express their feelings, stress, anxiety and anger."
To that end, Johnston and her staff hope to bring in Barbara Bigalke, executive director of the Fox Cities Victim Crisis Response Team, to meet with diocesan leadership to plan on developing a formal crisis response team.
"Our goal," Johnston said, "is to train a number of people to be ready at a drop of a hat to be available to help people deal with feelings and to work with (local) emergency teams."
While Catholic Charities, and other diocesan staff, might be one of the first diocesan contacts for parishes and schools facing a sudden tragedy, Johnston said that those staff people just reflect what all people involved with their faith lives - at the personal, parish or diocesan levels - already reflect.
"It really means that all of us have a need in our lives to reach out to people, beyond ourselves, to sort out tragedy in our lives," Johnston said. "We're fortunate to have people in the diocese who are willing to do that."